Lionsgate // 1987 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 19th, 2011
"Here's your Subzero! Now, just plain zero!"
Schwarzenegger + full-body spandex one-piece = motion picture immortality.
It's the year 2019 and things have gone straight down the toilet. According to The Running Man, in eight short years, the United States will have succumbed to total decay and urban centers will become toxic danger zones. To keep the masses satiated, television is piped out around the clock, containing state-sanctioned propaganda and Richard Dawson. The Running Man is the most popular show, hosted by the charismatic and possibly malevolent Killian (Dawson, Hogan's Heroes), and featuring criminals running for their lives from "stalkers" who are dispatched to execute them. But Killian's grasp on the populace may be threatened, when Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian) superstar of the underground resistance and fitness freak, is tossed into the contest with an urge to chainsaw men's genitalia.
Let's be up front: The Running Man isn't nearly the clever slice of social commentary it wants to be...or Lionsgate's distribution team wants it to be. Despite the attachment of two moronic featurettes about the Patriot Act and reality television (really) to lend itself satirical credibility, Schwarzenegger's goofy sci-fi adventure butters its bread on the side of B-movie entertainment, not incisive cultural subversion. Besides, Death Race 2000 did it better.
Regardless, The Running Man still rules, thanks to a number of factors, most notably...
This is righteous Schwarzenegger porn, crammed with memorable one-liners, terrible wordplay, and intense bicep-flexing one-on-one battles with the likes of Jesse Ventura and Jim Brown.
The guy creeped me out in a big way during his stint on Family Feud, but Richard Dawson is sublime as the greasy antagonist, recapturing that quiet steely mojo he owned during the Match Game years. His exciting ride on the Toboggan of Doom is probably the film's highlight.
Chainsaw to the Crotch!
Actually, this is the highlight.
Spandex as far as the eye can see, cartoonish villainy, a menagerie of 1980s meatheads and a relentlessly sweaty Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2), The Running Man is a banquet of sci-fi buffoonery and should be enjoyed as such.
Lionsgate's Blu-ray is fine: a decent but not spectacular 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that pops best during the flamboyant fight scenes; an active and appreciated 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track; a pair of commentary tracks from the director and producer; and the aforementioned lame featurettes that have almost nothing to do with the movie itself.
The darker Stephen King source material has been watered down in a big way, but The Running Man is stupid fun, and a solid Blu-ray.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R