‘You cold-blooded bastard! I’ll tell you what I think of it: I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god-damn spine!’
Childhood and adolescence is a unique time in anyone’s life. In terms of pop culture, you are introduced to loads of films, music and TV without any real context into what the wider world makes of it all. In a way, I miss that innocence and totally unbiased point of view. Having no preconceived notions about what is ‘good’ allowed me to buy and enjoy the seminal album Smurf’s Go Pop, and surely nobody could argue that is a bad thing?
This peculiar phenomenon also meant that up until re-watching The Running Man, I always assumed that it was beloved by critics and audiences alike. Upon reflection however, the film was a mild failure at the box office, received a lukewarm response from critics and is currently the proud owner of a 6.7 rating on IMDB. Not terrible but just… average. Surely everyone loves The Running Man though?? Has my whole life been a lie? Did that Thomas the Tank Engine scarf I received for my sixth birthday actually look good on me? Well, did it mum?!
Anyway. Plot. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed for a horrific crime before busting out of prison, only to be re-captured and forced to compete on a dystopian game show in which contestants are hunted down by humongous men in ridiculous costumes. While this isn’t quite peak Arnie, there are still some deliciously awful one-liners and he continues to struggle a little with sentences over ten words. As with any Schwarzenegger picture however, this only adds to the endearing charm of it all. Real life game show host Richard Dawkins is an inspired bit of casting as the malevolent host Killian and he brings the best out of Arnie with his smug persona and Hollywood sneer.
To be more serious for a second, the future presented in The Running Man is actually scarily prescient (the film is set in the strange world of 2017). Financial crash. Government controlling the media. Riots for food and shelter. Sadistic TV game shows. It is all depressingly accurate. For this, The Running Man deserves more credit than it receives, sure it is camp and a bit silly but there is also a brain hidden in there somewhere as well as a fully functioning heart.
It is no surprise of course that the pen of Stephen King has inspired such a classic film and despite what the box office, critics and audiences seem to suggest, The Running Man is a classic film. This is 80s cinema at its most 80s. Simply wonderful.
To read more about The Running Man and to see my list of the top ten Stephen King film adaptations, click here.