Stephen King’s bizarre novella THE RUNNING MAN became a silly TriStar motion picture in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his fame. Of all people, Paul Michael Glaser, the curly-haired star of STARSKY AND HUTCH, replaced Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE) behind the camera during principal photography, but was miscast for a movie demanding a director with a taste for wit. THE RUNNING MAN is slick, boisterous, occasionally funny, violent, but never as clever or wild as the material would suggest.
The film’s most brilliant concept is the casting of smarmy game show host Richard Dawson (FAMILY FEUD) as Damon Killian, the vicious host of the inhumane yet enormously popular television series THE RUNNING MAN, which pits convicts in a run for their lives on city streets against colorfully clothed killers like Fireball (Jim Brown), Dynamo (Erland van Lidth), and Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Yep, it’s THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, but with a lot more neon.
It’s a little tough to reconcile a totalitarian 2017 with small tube TVs and cassette tapes, not to mention a worldwide television sensation among a general public that appears to live in squalor on the streets. I suppose it doesn’t matter much when Arnold is tossing off quips and heads are exploding. Schwarzenegger has nothing in common with King’s Ben Richards, but he’s a game enough lead as a wrongfully accused cop blackmailed by Killian into competing in his vulgar spectacle.
Impressively filling her Spandex costume is a tasty Maria Conchita Alonso at the height of her hotness, and Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN) classes up the joint as Schwarzenegger's prison buddy. Also in the oddball cast are Marvin J. McIntyre, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa, Kurt Fuller, Dey Young, Lin Shaye, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Karen Leigh Hopkins, and Professor Toru Tanaka with dance choreography by Paula Abdul!