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Like most of the people reading this, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a comically large presence in my life. He was such a giant star that his fucking name appeared above the title of most of his movies on posters and DVD covers. No one gives a crap about Kindergarten Cop and the producers knew it. All that mattered was his awful accent and improbable facial bones.
A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of re-living a childhood memory in the form of The Running Man. Perhaps not a defining piece of cinema from my childhood, but certainly present enough to warrant remembrance.
If I could just skip ahead towards the tone this review will take, please do not go back and watch things you loved as a child. You will hate it and will wonder if you had all your pistons pumping in your youth.
One of the best things about this movie is its cover. Apparently I purchased the “Special Edition” which pretty much means it came in a cardboard box on the outside of the DVD case. And yes, above the title of the movie reads ‘SCWARZENEGGER’. They should have just thrown in some exclamation points and blinking lights to draw any and all attention away from how shitty the movie must be.
Here are quotes from my Twitter feed back in June when the movie came on cable late one night:
- The Running Man just came on Starz. My night officially wins. You could cure cancer and lose. Losers.
(Notice the hopeful nature in which I started out the experience? This movie totally rocked my face off as a kid, after all)
- Either this show is incredibly flawed or the turnover for the bad guys was very high.
(Not an extremely vicious or even an interesting bit of dialogue, but doubt is starting to creep in)
- Fat guy in underpants: “I’ll show YOU dickless!!!” Umm. Good one?
(This was towards the end of the movie. I guess for the hour in between these tweets I was in a semi-conscious daze attempting to piece together exactly where my life went wrong enough to where I actually enjoyed this at one point)
- I completely forgot how 80s douchetastic this movie is. Haven’t seen it since probably 1990.
(And it’s true. This movie is ghastly in its 80s-ness. Women with big hair, grainy video quality, spandex. Gross.)
But I didn’t pay enough attention to the movie to give it an adequate review. I kind of watched it and flinched in agony whenever something stupid happened. So here is the actual review based on my careful, critical critique of a truly shittacular movie.
It opens in the year 2019 in Los Angeles. It’s dirty, filled with crime and is up to its ass in corruption. So basically nothing has changed since when it was made in 1987. But there’s this game show, you see, run by the government called ‘The Running Man’. Since all art forms are censored by said government, whatever is on TV reigns supreme.
It’s pretty easy to see why the show is so popular, really. Convicts getting run down by roided-out dudes with chain saws and flame throwers? Fuck 2019, where is this show now?
Some of the lines in this movie are just incredible. One line that certainly wasn’t funny as the time was Arnold’s line “I’m not into politics, I’m into survival.” Twenty two years later and he is playing a dominant political role in the rape of the state I live in. Fun!
In what amounted to a giant middle finger to the audience, Arnie exclaims to the douchebag game show host (played by Richard Dawson) “Killian…I’ll be back.” Ha! Get it? It’s like that other movie he did where that was the famous line! Oh that is almost too clever. Someone named Steven E. deSouza wrote the screenplay. Sufficing to say that this man deserves all of life’s joys for that precious nugget he unleashed upon the world.
Supposedly none of the convicts on the show have ever killed one of the hired assassins (called ‘Stalkers’ in the movie). However, there is a scene where Jesse Ventura claims that the broadcast is three hours long. How the fuck is the show three hours long if the killers are on motorcycles with weapons and the contestants are unarmed and on foot? Doesn’t make sense.
During a confusing bit where Arnie and the others are looking for a satellite uplink (which is, for reasons unknown, right in the middle of the fucking set. Why would the hub of the powerful TV conglomerate, which controls the thinking of the people, sit idly in the middle of a game show lot featuring convicts — and in this case a huge fucking hacker computer nerd???) Arnold says out of nowhere: “If you guys don’t shutup I’m going to uplink your ass!”
What the fuck does that mean?
***SPOILER ALERT*** (Though, to be honest, you want this fucking tragedy to be spoiled believe me)
The order in which Arnold kills off the Stalkers is Sub-Zero (AKA Fat Japanese guy with a serrated hockey stick and explosive pucks), Buzzsaw (AKA Guy on a motorcycle with a chain saw and also he looks suspiciously like that gym coach you had who liked his job a little too much), Fireball (AKA Token black villain).
After that foolishness is over it’s time for Arnold’s name to be cleared. You see, he was framed for killing civilians who were rioting. They spliced a video together to make it look like he did it when he really didn’t. So anyways, the hot but unimaginably annoying Latina chick in the movie stole the raw footage from the station’s file room (which is why she was put on the show in the first place). They gain control of the aforementioned satellite uplink and run the real video which showed Arnold refusing to fire upon civilians when ordered to do so.
But how did the chick get the data out of the file room?
Arnold: “Where did you hide that?”
Chick: “It’s none of your business.”
So apparently she shoved it in her nanner and walked around with it in there for an hour and a half. Sick.
The grand finale is when the host is sent flying through the little underground tube thingy. And boy is it ever spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that when the little cage he was riding in crashes through a paper sign the entire thing explodes in flames. Believe it or not this was actually one of the least shitty things about the movie.
And what 80s movie would be complete without an atrocious overly-dramatic song as the credits role? Let’s have a listen, shall we?
If you haven’t seen this movie I envy you. I think if I had watched Die Hard immediately after this my brain would have eaten itself due to the preposterous difference in quality.
Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger absolutely cannot play a character named Ben Richards. Are you fucking serious? He can’t even say ‘Ben Richards’ let alone be him. The girl in the movie was named Amber and he said it once…just once. It was probably written several times in the script but things get axed quickly when ‘Amber’ comes out ‘Om-byuhhhhh’.
I’ll leave you with the best part about the experience. Yes…the cover again.
“A GAME NOBODY SURVIVES.
BUT SCHWARZENEGGER HAS YET TO PLAY.”
Hell I’m psyched! I’m gonna go watch it again, brb.
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