October 3, 2010
Wikipedia | The Running Man is a 1987 American action film of Stephen King’s 1982 novel of the same name. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown, and Richard Dawson.
The film, set in a dystopic year 2019, is about a television show called The Running Man, where convicted criminal “runners” must escape death at the hands of professional killers. Running Man bears some similarity to “Das Millionenspiel”, a fictional German reality show (1970).
By 2017, the global economy has collapsed and American society has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. The government pacifies the populace by broadcasting a number of game shows in which convicted criminals fight for their lives. The most popular and sadistic of these shows is the gladiator-style The Running Man, hosted by the ruthless Damon Killian, where “runners” attempt to evade “stalkers” and certain death. Those that escape and “win”, Killian says, can be pardoned and set free.
Ben Richards, a former military helicopter pilot and captain convicted of a massacre he actually tried to prevent, escapes from a labor camp with other inmates and flees to a shanty town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Later seeking shelter at his brother’s apartment, Richards discovers it is now occupied by composer Amber Mendez, who works for ICS, the network that broadcasts The Running Man. Richards kidnaps Amber and plans to fly to Hawaii, but she alerts security and Richards is caught and taken to the ICS studios. Killian coerces him to compete in The Running Man with the threat that if he declines, his two weaker escapee friends—Laughlin and Weiss—will be put on the show instead. Richards complies, but as the show begins, Killian reveals that Laughlin and Weiss have been enrolled as runners anyway. When Amber is watching news footage of Ben’s arrest, she is appalled to see a falsified media report that states Ben Richards gravely injured two of the airport workers. As she saw Richards’ nonviolent actions firsthand, she begins to question the authenticity of the media coverage of the Bakersfield massacre.
Richards and his friends are set upon by the first stalker, Subzero, who is eventually killed by Richards and Laughlin. While continuing to evade the barbaric stalkers, Laughlin and Weiss are also trying to locate the network’s uplink facilities, which are within the game zone; if the resistance can obtain the access codes to the satellites that broadcast ICS programming, they could hijack them and reveal the truth. Meanwhile, Amber decides to investigate the cover-up of the massacre, but she is captured and subsequently sent into the game zone, where she encounters Richards and the others. The runners split up, each pair pursued by a different stalker. Laughlin is mortally wounded by the stalker Buzzsaw, whom Richards subsequently kills by wrestling his chainsaw back towards him, impaling and mutilating Buzzsaw’s penis. Weiss and Amber are successful in locating the uplink system and learning the access codes, but Weiss is subsequently killed by the stalker Dynamo. Amber’s screams lead Richards to her, and as the two evade the stalker, Dynamo’s buggy flips, trapping him inside. Richards then stuns the audience by merely pinning Dynamo in the vehicle, proclaiming that he will not kill a helpless man.
Amber and Richards return to Laughlin, whose wounds prove fatal. Before dying, he reveals that the resistance has a hideout within the game zone; it’s imperative to get Amber, who knows the satellite code, to them. Back at the ICS studio, Killian sees Richards’ popularity growing, with viewers betting for Richards to win when they are supposed to bet only on the stalkers. Off-camera, Killian offers Richards a job as a stalker, which he furiously declines. As the next stalker, Fireball, pursues Amber and Richards into an abandoned factory, Amber inadvertently finds the charred bodies of the previous season’s “winning” runners. Fireball attempts to kill Amber, but Richards rescues her and kills Fireball with his own weaponry, rupturing his Flamethrower’s gas line, then throwing a flare on to him causing an explosion (with the flare exploding into his penis no less).
Running out of options, Killian tries to get “Captain Freedom”; a retired Stalker to battle with Richards. He refuses to do so out of respect for Richards and fully believing that this game is about honor. Through computer-generated imagery, Killian fakes the death of Richards and Amber in the final match of the episode, playing one of Captain Freedom’s old matches and replacing the runners with Amber and Richards, who die at the hands of Captain Freedom.
Meanwhile, Richards and Amber are caught by Mic and the resistance and taken to their hideout, where they learn of their “deaths” on the show. Using the access codes provided by Amber, Mic is able to take over the ICS satellite and plans to broadcast the unedited footage of the Bakersfield massacre, proving Richards’ innocence, as well as revealing that previous winners were not pardoned, but murdered. For this plan to work however they must prevent ICS technicians from locking them out again as soon as they begin the broadcast.
Richards leads the rebels to the ICS studios where they seize the control room, allowing the resistance broadcast. Richards then heads to the main studio floor, shocking the live and at-home audiences who supposedly watched him die. Amber runs into Dynamo, who has recovered. Dynamo attempts to rape her, but she kills him when she causes the sprinkler system to go off, electrocuting him when the water hits his electrically powered suit. Richards confronts Killian, who explains that he had created the show for huge ratings and to appease American viewers’ love for television by giving the viewers what they really want. Ignoring the excuse, Richards sends Killian into the game zone aboard a rocket sled, which flies into a billboard (with Killian’s picture on it) and explodes, to the delight of the live television audience. The film ends as Ben and Amber share a kiss.
Link: Running Man on IMDB