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Movie review Monday: The Running Man

Updated: Apr 17

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards on the movie poster for The Running Man.

I came across The Running Man a few days ago, and decided to give it a try, because even though it was one of Schwarzie's lesser known movies, it is still a cult classic, and sci-fi movies are never boring. Whether its an action movie, or in some cases a horror movie, if it's associated with sci-fi, it's always with a message that is grounded in truth.


Image Credits: Unknown, found on themoviedb.org


It is difficult to truly appreciate the value that some of Hollywood's cult classic movies, because we often forget the people who were a part of them. In this case, Schwarzie isn't unknown to the vast majority of people, but he is not surrounded by a very strong cast. The only other strong performer in the movie that stuck out to me was Richard Dawson's portrayal of Damon Killian, the sadistic showman in LA.


The basis of the movie is that, following a world-wide economic collapse, by 2017, the USA has been overtaken completely as a police state, which Schwarzenegger's character, Ben Richards is a part of. In this world, movies and music are forbidden, certain clothes are considered contraband, and there is only one state sponsored television channel, which Damon Killian runs. In this version of the police state, crimes are committed by the police, and they often find scapegoats such as Richards, who refused to fire on a crowd of begging civilians, and was arrested for refusing to comply with orders.


Following a successful prison break where he takes Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso) hostage, she rats him out and he is forced to play in a game show called the Running Man, a game where people accused of dangerous crimes are slandered, and sent into a near-certain death trap. Mendez later finds out that Richards did not commit the crimes that Killian accused him of committing, and that Killian doctored the tapes, and she is sent into the game to join Richards, Harold Weiss (Marvin J. Macintyre), and William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto). As they survive the game, and discover the dead bodies of the previous season's winners, they seek refuge with Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura), leader of an underground resistance, to plan their next move. They storm the studios, open fire on the employees, and Richards brings Killian to his knees. Before he kills Damon Killian, Richards asks him why he does it, to which he replies that Americans love TV, pointing out that they raise their kids on it, and he's just feeding an appetite for destruction, violence, and strong accusations. Despite trying to turn himself into the victim, he succumbs as Richards locks him in a cart sent flying into a billboard, where it crashes and he dies in the explosion.


This movie is very nihilistic despite its happy ending, which follows a very common theme for 80s sci-fi movies, as there are not many that portray a welcoming of the future as a good thing. While the first half of the movie definitely explains the dangers of a police state and warns against it, the real message of the movie is a warning against the overuse of programming people with TV. It really goes in depth, as we see that the masses lack the knowledge to have informed thoughts, as they blindly cheer as accused criminals are hacked to pieces, but once they see the truth, they change their tune. This movie also warns against the collusion of state and media, because Richard Dawson gives such a convincing performance at the end that makes you think he was forced to do things he didn't want to do to maintain his lifestyle, such as propagandize entertainment. (I still think he would've run the show the same sadistic way regardless.) It just goes to show that as long as media is free and open, and it is not bought and paid for by government, people will have enough pieces to figure out the truth. One thing I'll tell you for sure though, is that government bureaucrats will never work at Broken Twigs Sports or sponsor me.

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