The Running Man Movie Review

The Running Man

A game nobody survives... But Schwarzenegger has yet to play
The Running Man Picture
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars


Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown

Jesse Ventura, Erland van Lidth, Marvin J. McIntyre, Gus Rethwisch, Professor Toru Tanaka, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa, Richard Dawson, Karen Leigh Hopkins, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Edward Bunker, Bryan Kestner, Anthony Pena Update Cast

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This film was based on a book written by Stephen King under the name of Richard Bachman. The book was sadder... Richards was an innocent but frail man with a sick child and a wife who sells herself (literally) to survive. At the end of the book, Richards and many others die. Other differences: Mendez doesn't come until the 3rd act, Killian doesn't exist, citizens can report on runner spottings, and the stalkers are different than in the movie.

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America has lost it's freedom. All art is censored. The government controls us all. To keep us from mass uprising, they give us sensationalized brutality in the form of shows like "Climbing For Dollars", "The Hate Boat", "Confess", "Captain Freedom's Workout" and the most popular show on the air... "THE RUNNING MAN"!

A combination of the Roman circus and "Solid Gold" hosted by the sinister Damon Killian (Dawson), every episode features the country's criminals and dissenters running from madmen known as the stalkers. The audience members win prizes, the contestants win freedom...

...If they survive.

Let's meet the contestants for tonight's movie:

Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger) is a Class A law enforcement official who refuses to go through with a bombing raid on innocents who want food. He is beaten and then framed for doing it anyway. He's been working in a prison camp for the past year and a half, but with assistance from the rebels Laughlin and Weiss (Kotto and McIntyre), he escapes. The 3 of them go to a shanty village to meet with the resistance leader Mic (Fleetwood). While Laughlin and Weiss stay to plan a sattelite scrambling, Richards hops a truck into the city to go back to his old apartment.

Amber Mendez (Alonso), a young musician and employee of "Running Man"'s home network ICS, now lives in Richards' abode. When she's about to rat out Richards, he takes her and her travel pass to the airport for an escape to the Pacific. Ratted out by Mendez, Richards is kidnapped and sent to ICS headquarters. With Laughlin and Weiss kidnapped as well, he is offered 2 choices: He could go back to prison or he could become a contestant on "The Running Man". With that choice before him, he chooses the show.

That night, he's on TV and ready to face the stalkers and maybe win freedom and a clearance of his name. He is sent down into the gaming grid, along with his friends, whom he was promised wouldn't go. Richards, before being sent down, has a video profile of him aired that makes him seem like the man behind the food riot bombings. An unexpected ally wants to prove the lies wrong.

In the gaming grid, the trio face off first against Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka), a large man with a deadly sword. Chasing the trio on an ice rink, Subzero meets his death when Richards garottes him with some barbed wire.

That ally who wants to help Richards? None other than Mendez, who steals the raw footage of the bombings. She is then caught and sent into the game, becoming a "Running Woman" of sorts. She and Richards are reunited and now are being pursued by two more villains. Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch) is a man with a namesake weapon that can cut through steel, while Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth) is an opera-singing fat man with an electric gun. Buzzsaw meets his death through a brutal chainsaw mutilation that has to be seen to be believed, while Dynamo has his electric car tipped over. Dynamo isn't dead yet, though... He'll make a grand and shocking (pun intended) return in the movie's climax.

2 stalkers are down and Killian is furious. On the upside, ratings are skyrocketing. On the downside, people are now cheering for Richards, making bets that he'll commit the next kill. There's still one more stalker to go, though... Fireball (Brown), a man with a flamethrower, a rocket pack and a multi-colored hairdo. He pursues Richards and Mendez to another section of the gaming grid, where Mendez discovers that last year's winners, said to be in the Pacific, are really skeletons in a locker room. Confronted by Fireball, Mendez is about to die. Richards comes in for the save, disconnecting Fireball's gas supply and tossing a flare at him. Fireball goes up in smoke and Richards and Mendez head for the revolutionaries' headquarters.

Killian fakes Richards' death with digital trickery, but the truth about him, his show and Richards is about to be revealed. The skeletons come out of the closet (literally) and the real footage of what happened in the food riot bombings hits the airwaves. Confronted by Dynamo in the hallway, Mendez beats him up and then turns the sprinkler system on him, electrocuting him (I told you his return would be shocking). Now Richards is back (Schwarzenegger inevitably delivers his "Terminator" tag line in all his movies... He was answered in this one by Dawson's line "Only in a rerun"), and ready for Killian. Killian talks about the audience's wanting of sensationalism, and Richards has one answer for that. "Damon Killian, you're the final contestant on 'The Running Man!". Killian is strapped in and shot down the tube, flying through a billboard and dying in flames. The game is over for "The Running Man", and Richards is cleared. The 80s happy ending? Richards and Mendez make their way out of the studio hand in hand, conquering heroes of the revolution.

Please stand by.

Author: John Edward KilduffUpdate This Review


What can I say? I think this is Schwarzenegger's best movie of the 80s (yes, better than "The Terminator"). Delivering his beatings and wisecracks, Schwarzenegger does well. Maria Conchita Alonso is beautiful and violent. Richard Dawson delivers the best performance of his career. To me, this movie is the action-adventure equivalent of "Network", but with a happier ending.

If you like action movies and satires of television (truthfully, considering a lot of what's on TV now, I won't be surprised if this makes it to the air in some other form before 2017), then this is your movie. Bonus: Several cool dance numbers choreographed by Paula Abdul.

Great design... truly 80's in its look and feel.
Some characters are underdeveloped.

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The Movie Data

Key Crew


Release Date: 13 Nov 1987
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Taft Entertainment Pictures
Production: Braveworld Productions, Home Box Office (HBO), J&M Entertainment, Keith Barish Productions, TAFT Entertainment Pictures
Genre: Sci-Fi

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The Movie Trailer
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1987 Taft Entertainment Pictures
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