The Running Man ★★★

It is 2019. Following a global economic crash, the gulf between rich and poor grows increasingly wider whilst the masses are fed the opiate of television; where the news distorts the truth and fabricates, and entertainment shows view the lives and wellbeing of its participants as cheap and disposable.

But enough about Panorama and The Jeremy Kyle Show, because this is actually a fantastical vision of the present day from 1987. Loosely based on a novel by Stephen King and directed by Paul Michael Glaser of Starsky and Hutch fame, it's The Running Man starring that mighty Austrian oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Whilst the sci-fi and satire of The Running Man is universal, it's fair to say that we in the UK are a little removed from one of it's key pieces of casting; Richard Dawson. Known to us as little more than a former Mr Diana Dors and 'that British guy from Hogan's Heroes', Dawson actually made his name in the US hosting Family Feud (the American equivalent of Family Fortunes) and so his role here as the bloodthirsty and egotistical host of the deadly gameshow The Running Man is actually a great send-up of himself. For UK viewers, it would be a bit like seeing Bruce Forsyth in the role, or actual Family Fortunes host Les Dennis!

The Running Man is a film that seems to have grown in appreciation over the years thanks perhaps to similar dystopic visions of sadistic, survival-of-the-fittest entertainment. Whilst I love such a premise, I can't help but find the execution of this one a little lacking. I'm inclined to agree with Arnie that much of the blame lies at Glaser's door who, as the star said, "shot the movie like it was a television show" (why he thought it a good idea to place the credits over the film's first action sequence, the prison breakout, rather than the opening preamble with Arnie defying his police superiors is beyond me) but I imagine it was Glaser who likely gave the film its rather meta humour and sharp, satirical edge, something other directors who would simply concentrate on the action and visuals would fail to deliver, so it's six of one and half dozen of another I guess.

Performance wise, Arnie is at his peak but delivers some of the worst quips of his career in this, whilst the support cast is both eclectic and erratic; Yaphet Kotto, Jesse Ventura and Jim Brown are perhaps to be expected here (though to be honest, Kotto seems a bit miscast in his role) but who picked the names Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa and Marvin J. McIntyre out of the casting hat?! Worst of all, María Conchita Alonso is a rather poor actor and can be quite irritating as Arnie's love interest, rather than the charming I imagine they were aiming for. As a B movie I'd say that this was fine, but as a big action blockbuster, it's a bit disappointing. Nevertheless I can see why, for some, it is a cult classic - but Arnie's done better from this period.

Harold Faltermeyer's score is really atmospheric though, but no one really needed to see Yaphet Kotto squeezed into a tight lycra jumpsuit now did they?

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