THE RUNNING MAN
Review by Gordon Justesen
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dawson
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Audio: Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS-ES 6.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2004
I'LL BE BACK."
in a rerun."
I remember watching
The Running Man, or rather “sneaking
in” a viewing, back in the days when I was forbidden to watch any R rated
movies. When I saw it, I took it for just another action packed romp starring
Mr. Universe. I was even aware that it was based upon a novel written by Stephen
King, who actually wrote the book under the alias Richard Bachman. That struck
me somewhat strange because it didn’t seem like the kind of story Stephen King
was used to writing. But now, watching it for the first time in a long time, I
think I have a pretty good idea of what it was trying to illustrate.
television market is pretty much fueled by that of reality TV. Each of the four
big networks seems to have its own top show that turns the viewer into something
of a voyeur. The Running Man, which is
set in the year 2019, seems to think that citizens, if pushed to such limits in
as a result of living in a totalitarian society, will thrive on such realistic
shows. I certainly hope that it never comes to that point, and that a show like
“The Running Man” is never ever conceived.
The show, which is
of course the highest rated show in this futuristic society, consists of taking
convicted felons, placing them in darkened wasteland-like settings, and engage
in a fight to the death with such barbaric characters as Sub-Zero, Fireball,
Captain Freedom, Dynamo, and of course everyone’s favorite, Buzzsaw, who are
referred to on the show as The Stalkers. The object of the game is for selected
convicts to battle the impossible in the hopes of getting their freedom back.
The latest contestant to face such a deadly challenge is Ben Richards (Arnold
Schwarzenegger). The only catch here is that Richards, a former Police unit
helicopter pilot, is innocent of his charges.
It’s clear that
in this particular society, fabricated news is very much frequented by the
networks. Richards, in the opening of the film, is given orders to fire upon a
crowd of innocent civilians who are fighting over food. His disobeys his orders,
refusing to commit murder, and he is then knocked unconscious and jailed on
false charges. Once he’s sent to a penal colony, Richards soon escapes, but is
soon captured by the police once again, only this time he’s summoned to a one
on one meeting with Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) the producer and host of
“The Running Man”.
With no other
options, Richards is eventually sent into hell, uhh, make that game show hell.
He, along with two other acquaintances, pre-selected by the network, must engage
in some ferocious battles with an assortment of comic book-like adversaries who
acquire such weapons as a blowtorch, chainsaw, and even that of electricity.
Adding even more heat to the mix is the last minute addition of female
contestant Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso), who initially had Richards
arrested during his escape attempt, but later discovered he had been framed,
something the network execs will not tolerate.
indicated the elements that may make you think while watching it, let’s not
forget that this is an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle from the late 80s. This
means you expect certain events to happen, such as Ah-nuld combating villains
under extreme circumstances, and every so often having the pleasure of a hard to
resist one-liner from the current Governor of “Kulli-fornia”. An example of
this is a scene where Arnie fights one of the menacing Stalkers on the show. He
dismantles the opponent, who has a gas tank attached to his back and is at this
point leaking. Ah-nuld tosses a stick of dynamite in the opponent’s direction,
asking him “How about a light?”. An explosion then occurs, followed by our
hero exclaiming, “What a hothead.”
interesting to observe the diverse level of talent involved in The
Running Man. You have the biggest action star of the time period in the lead
role (Schwarzenegger). There’s also a real life game show host playing, as Dr.
Evil would put it, an EVIL-game show host (Richard Dawson, late of “Family
Feud”). The story is based on the work of a terror-iffic novelist (Stephen
King). And lastly, the director happens to be none other than David Starsky
himself (Paul Michael Glaser). Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the resistance
group that helps Arnold fight back in the end. It’s a group led by Mick
Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa, just as anyone would expect.
It seems like the
oddest collaboration of the past century, but they managed to make an action
piece that is both campy and a bit thought provoking, especially in these times.
The Running Man is a classic
Schwarzenegger romp, armed and loaded with a deadly arsenal of hardcore action
and even deadlier one-liners from everyone’s favorite Terminator turned
Governor of “Kulli-fornia”.
The good people at
Artisan sure know how to take a flick from the 80s, and master it to the point
of looking better than ever. That is completely the case with The
Running Man, which is getting the proper Special Edition makeover. It was
one of Artisan’s first releases on DVD, and though I never saw that particular
copy, I understand the video was not given the anamorphic touch. The picture
quality is quite outstanding, given the film’s age of 17 years. The detail is
evident throughout the presentation, mind a slight instance or two of image
softness. The 2-disc set includes the anamorphic widescreen version on Disc 1,
and the full screen version on Disc 2. In other words, you may wanna stick to
As Arnold says late
in the movie, “Well, that hit the spot!”
I could not, for
the life of me, believe my ears once I popped this disc in. The incredibly
superior sound quality was one I was not expecting. Artisan has delivered a 5.1
track mix with an extra dose of boom to it in the form of EX. The surround sound
range is simply as explosive as any of the 20 plus explosions in the movie.
Words simply cannot describe it. What I can tell you is that Dolby Digital EX
can deliver just as enormous on an 80s release like this the same way it has on
such recent releases as We Were Soldiers and
Blade II. Everything from music to
action to dialogue to background noise has been perfected in the utmost sharpest
way imaginable. Without a doubt, one of the bigger surprises of the year.
The 2-disc Special
Edition offering from Artisan includes some extras you may be a bit surprised
by. The only downside is that the features are spread across both discs.
On Disc 1, there
are two commentary tracks; one with director Paul Michael Glaser and producer
Tim Zinnerman; the second with executive producer Rob Cohen. Also featured is
much thought-provoking documentary titled “Lockdown on Main Street”. This
mind-blowing piece goes beyond the movie to illustrate the current state of
criminal and privacy issues following 9/11.
Disc 2 contains a
second documentary titled “Game Theory”, which takes a look at the effect
reality TV has had on our present society. In addition, there is a database of
the movie’s deadly arsenal of villains, titled simply “Meet the Stalkers”.
Lastly, there is a trailer for the movie.