The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987, USA)

Though based on a Stephen King novel, The Running Man did not use King's name in the marketing of the film, and only the author's pseudonym (Richard Bachman) appears in the credits. The producers acquired the rights to the film without knowing that Bachman was King. Paul Michael Glaser's film bears little resemblance to King's novel, except for the most basic aspect of the plots. Yet the film stands on its own merits, arriving the same year as Paul Verhoeven's Robocop. It fits firmly in the dystopian sci-fi of the late 1980s.

Set in the totalitarian police state of 2017, the film centers around Ben Richards. After refusing to fire on a riot of unarmed civilians, he is arrested and sent to a prison camp. Richards is then captured and forced by Damon Killian to take part in The Running Man, a show where criminals fight for their lives against "hunters" who attempt to kill them. While in King's novel, Richards was free to wander around the entire country, here he is confined to a single area. Inspired by pro wrestling personas of the day, the various hunters are no match for Richards.

The real star of the film is real-life talk show host Richard Dawson as Killian - he captures the character perfectly. Schwarzenegger has some cringe one-liners but does a fair job. The direction and editing are punchy and keep the film running (no pun intended) at a breakneck pace. While the film could have used smarter satire from a director like Verhoeven, it nevertheless predicted several things. While the film was of course a major influence on reality television, it also predicted the use of what we know today as "deep fakes," something that is used as a major plot point in the film. Little did they know...



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