Also known as: Battle Runner (Japanese English title)
Release Date: November 13th, 1987
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Written by: Steven E. de Souza
Based on: The Running Man by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, María Conchita Alonso, Jesse Ventura, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa, Yaphet Kotto, Marvin J. McIntyre, Jim Brown, Kurt Fuller, Lin Shaye, Professor Toru Tanaka
Braveworld Productions, Taft Entertainment, HBO Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 101 Minutes
“Killian, here’s your Subzero! Now… plain zero!” – Ben Richards
This is a Stephen King story, even if the author wrote this under a pseudonym. It was brought to life by the screenplay of Steven E. de Souza, who also penned the scripts for Die Hard 1 & 2, Commando, 48 Hrs. 1 & 2 and a bunch of other cool shit.
Add in a cast that boasts manly badasses Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown and Yaphet Kotto and there are almost too many iron balls on the screen. This is a festival of testosterone and broken bodies.
You also have Richard Dawson, who was the perfect choice for the role of Killian, and María Conchita Alonso, who I’ve been crushing on since about fourth grade.
This story takes place in a dystopian corporate future where an innocent soldier is framed for a massacre that he actually tried to prevent. He escapes prison and goes on the run, using a very apprehensive TV executive to help him get to freedom. She freaks out in the airport though and the soldier is caught and forced to compete in a strange game show. The soldier and his allies have to fight their way through derelict city blocks, fighting off gimmicky warriors that the live studio audience chooses to apprehend and murder them in cold blood for their entertainment. As the soldier starts offing these warriors, public opinion changes and the people start cheering for this “criminal” against the corporate system that is trying to snuff him out.
The film’s themes are very similar to two films from 1975: Death Race 2000 and Rollerball. This certainly doesn’t make this story a rehash of those, however. This is unique and just a cool twist on the manhunt genre.
I always loved Schwarzenegger in sci-fi settings, especially ones dealing with a dark future. While this isn’t anywhere near as good as the first two Terminator movies, it is a lot of fun and still holds some social and political relevance today, over thirty years later.
The effects are good for the time, the characters are twisted but cool and this almost feels like a mashup of American Gladiators, old school WWF and Blade Runner.
I still love this movie and even if it hasn’t aged too well, it is a product of the awesome ’80s and still works within the context of its creation.
Pairs well with: Other ’80s Schwarzenegger films. For style and themes, it works with the original Rollerball and Death Race 2000.