The Running Man

Year: 1987
Production Co: HBO
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Writer: Stephen King/Steven E deSouza
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Jesse Ventura, Yaphet Kotto
Taking only the merest kernel of Stephen King's novel, director Glaser and screenwriter deSouza turn this into a flashy satire on TV violence by depicting hero Ben Richards' (Schwarzenegger) quest as a series of game show-style battles against larger than life villains.

It's the near future and Richards is the victim of a censorship plot in the impoverished society where betting on bloodthirsty televised competitions is the only distraction for hordes of citizens living in squalor.

The most popular show is the ultraviolent The Running Man, where criminals are pitted against gimmicky WWF-like killers.

But The System hasn't counted on its most dangerous enemy, An Innocent Man. Teaming up on set with Weiss and Laughlin (Kotto), Richards starts to do the unthinkable and win, theatrically despatching Subzero, Buzzsaw and Dynamo in spectacular fashion.

Redundant subplots about a pirate socialist network broadcasting from within the fascist enclave are convenient devices so we can see the human spirit smashing the totalitarian state, but it's about the thrills.

There's a slight satirical element on the over-commercial and manipulative nature of televised sports but even more interesting is the eerie - and probably unwitting - premonition of the age of the CGI synthespian. Watch the sequence where Richards has gone missing but compere Killian (Dawson) directs a broadcast engineer to create a fake digital fight between him and Captain Freedom (Ventura) to satisfy the audience.

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