Double Impact! Presents ‘The Running Man’ (1987)

From the cinephiliac minds of Sailor Monsoon and Vincent Kane comes a new collaborative review series called Double Impact! For these opinion pieces, we watch a film, break it down and analyze it, and then for the hell of it, we like to pick a new cast if we were going to remake the film today. Through our convoluted thought process, neither one of us truly understands, we will definitively determine whether or not certain sacred cows are worthy of praise and alternatively if childhood favorites hold up or are better left in the past. The goal is to get you to rewatch old films you love, check out great stuff you haven’t and skip the overrated classics you’ve heard about but never got around to. This is a celebration of the stuff we love and a takedown of the shit we don’t. This is Double Impact!


The Plot

The Running Man is a 1987 American dystopian action film directed by Paul Michael Glaser and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto, and Jesse Ventura. It is very loosely based on the 1982 novel of the same title written by Stephen King and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The film’s story, set in a dystopian United States between 2017 and 2019, is about a television show called The Running Man, where convicted criminal “runners” must escape death at the hands of professional killers.

The Discussion

Kane: We are going to watch a film about our future’s past.

Sailor: We are watching an X-Men movie?

Kane: No, it’s a movie about the future which is now our past.

Sailor: What are you jabbering about?

Kane: The Running Man. We are watching The Running Man.

Sailor: Why didn’t you ju…

Kane: And we are rolling!

Sailor: I miss the TriStar horse.

Kane: There are so many things like this that I miss in movies. Like this bright red background with scrolling intro that’s headache-inducing.

Sailor: So 2017 huh.

Kane:  The days of future past!

Sailor: …

Kane: I just can’t buy Arnie as a pilot.

Sailor: Not even for one second.

Kane: He barely fits in the choppa.

Sailor: This whole bit is my least favorite part of the movie.

Kane: Yea, it feels tacked on.

Sailor: Exactly. Like it was a reshoot that we are going to throw at the beginning of the film.

Kane: Dammit Chico! Stop running!

Sailor: Did you know this was directed by Starsky from Starsky and Hutch?

Kane: I did not. I have also never seen Starsky and Hutch.

Sailor: You ain’t missing nuffin.

Kane: I’m missing this synthy goodness in mah movies today.

Sailor: Even the worst 80s movies are instantly improved because of the synth.

Kane: Have you ever read the book?

Sailor: I have and the actual running game’s rules are completely different.

Kane: I haven’t read it so which concept is better?

Sailor: In the book, you’re hunted by five people but anyone in America can kill you. Every hour you have to upload where you are so everyone knows your location and the game lasts 24 hours? Maybe 48. You can go anywhere in the country but again, everyone knows you’re playing and anyone can kill you

Kane: Interesting. So like a combo of Surviving the Game and The Purge?

Sailor: You could adapt the book again, change the name and no one would know they’re the same story.

Kane: I’d watch it.

Sailor: Hells yes.

Kane: Richard Dawson is so good in this. Apparently, his persona in this movie is closer to what he was like behind the camera.

Sailor: You ain’t kidding. Very underrated performance.

Sailor: I don’t think Arnold ever looked bigger than he does in this movie.

Kane: In just movies? Because he is jacked before he started acting and in Pumping Iron.

Sailor: I think he is bigger here than in Pumping Iron.

Kane: You’re crazy.

Sailor: Ok. You may be right, but he is fucking huge here.

Kane: He wasn’t going to let all these other guys look bigger than him.

Sailor: I don’t think there has been a more sculpted man.

Kane: Not really because most either look weird or are not proportional.

Sailor: Big ol slab of muscle meat.

Kane: Ok we have spent way too long talking about this.

Sailor: Accept it, Kane!

Kane: I love that this helped inspire American Gladiators.

Sailor: I think the exposition is done poorly. Everything feels half-assed.

Kane: Agreed. It’s easy to follow but why is this stuff happening again?

Kane: Who owned the 80’s, Sly or Arnie?

Sailor: Oof. That’s a tough question but I want to say Sly.

Kane: I want to say Arnold.

Sailor: Everyone wanted to be Rambo in the 80s.

Kane: That’s true and Arnold didn’t have the franchise like Sly. Who had two.

Sailor: Why don’t movies do this stuff anymore?

Kane: A five-minute dance choreographed by Paula Abdul in the middle of the movie just because.

Sailor: This was choreographed by Paul Abdul?!

Kane: Yup.

Sailor: I never knew that.

Kane: I loved this damn movie so much as a kid.

Sailor: I did too.

Kane: I mean it’s ridiculous but fun. Do Asians even play hockey?

Sailor: No they do not.

Kane: Don’t say it, Arnold!

Sailor: Subzero. Now, just plain zero.

Kane: Ya goofed up the line.

Sailor: Dammit!

Kane: It doesn’t even make sense.

Sailor: No the hell it does not.

Kane: Dead Zero sounds better.

Sailor: Buzz Saw is a beast!

Kane: I hated Dynamo so much.

Sailor: Really? I loved him!

Kane: Of course you did.

Sailor: I completely forgot about Fireball.

Kane: Cuz he’s black.

Sailor: Don’t you put that on me!

Kane: Two questions. Did Arnie always have a black costar and did any of them ever survive his movies?

Sailor: I feel like the answers are yes and no.

Kane: Why did it take the old lady to start changing the bets?

Sailor: I don’t get how betting like this even works.

Kane: Really? Because you definitely seem like someone who regulars cockfights.

Sailor: What the hell is that supp…

Kane: This Maria chick so annoying.

Sailor: All she does is scream and complain.

Kane: Dats 80s womens for ya.

Sailor: Women period.

Kane: …

Sailor: Yea, I said it.

Kane: These one-liners are killing me.

Sailor: It’s a skeleton. I never understood people screaming.

Kane: It depends on the circumstances. Here, with someone chasing you, no scream. In a rain-filled pool with skeletons popping up, scream.

Sailor: I’ll agree with that.

Kane: Arnie has to average 17 takes any time he said more than five-word sentences.

Sailor: Acting is hard.

Kane: Just open fire into the crowd.

Sailor: It’s good for ratings.

Kane: I didn’t realize till much later in life why he had his pants down. The 80s, oh you.

Sailor: I totally forgot he was going to rape her.

Kane: Is it really an 80s movie if there isn’t a hint of rape somewhere in the film?

Sailor: Fuck is Arnie bad in this.

Kane: So bad but is this his best bad movie though?

Sailor: It definitely is.

Kane: And now dey in love. This song made it happen.

Sailor: Good ol John Parr. I don’t know why I’m still watching the credits.

Kane: That song got ya hooked.

Sailor: Make it stop.

Final Thoughts

Kane: There is ridiculous and then there is ridiculous fun. This ridiculous fun and the best part is that it’s non-stop till the credits roll. There is so much 80s goodness thrown at you that all you can do is sit back and enjoy. Sure you can sit and pick apart almost every single choice made in this movie to tear it to shreds but at the end of the day, I just don’t care. Its big dumb 80s fun like only 80s action movies can do. Arnold is so bad in this but he is jacked and beating the crap out of everyone so who cares. Richard Dawson gives a very underappreciated performance that gets severely overlooked because of the big muscles and the silly wrestler like stalkers trying to kill those muscles. After that, all you remember is the stalkers and the little old lady saying “Ben Richards. That boy’s one mean motherfucker.” However, looking back at today, it was a bit ahead of its time in showing the lowering of social standards in order to watch reality carnage for entertainment. Oh, and it inspired a childhood favorite in American Gladiators which automatically makes it a classic right?

Sailor: Although more closely associated with horror than action, the death game sub-genre has produced a small number of action classics. Due to its popularity amongst younger viewers, The Hunger Games is arguably the most famous but Katniss never would’ve been able to shoot a single person with an arrow if it wasn’t for Stephen King. He gets credit for popularizing the genre with his novel The Running Man but the film adaptation that came five years later, really laid the groundwork for every action film to follow. Having almost nothing to do with its own source material, the film is far closer in tone and plot to the film Turkey Shoot than the book itself but where that film took inspiration from The Most Deadliest Game (which King himself borrowed from) and Death Race 2000, The Running Man moved away from the rich hunting the poor angle and instead, focused on the game show angle, the only similarity it shares with the book. Outside of the game show premise and the character’s names, not a single thing is similar between the novel and the movie.

A faithful adaptation would’ve looked something similar to The Bourne Identity, where everyone on Earth is looking for the same person, including an organization looking at monitors and three hunters but instead, we got a 90 American Gladiator commercial. I understand the ’80s liked producing shit that was one step away from being a live-action cartoon but The Running Man is ridiculous. There’s opera singing electric-powered rapists, chainsaw-wielding madmen, ice skating assassins, and more one-liners than a Henny Youngman routine. But buried deep in the middle of all of that over the top silliness, is a legit great performance from real-life game show host Richard Dawson. He’s essentially playing himself but cranked up to 11. His charm is dialed up, his phoniness is dialed up and his obsession with ratings is dialed waaaaaaay up. It’s a fantastic performance one that the film frankly doesn’t deserve.

Impact Rating

Kane: C+

Sailor: C

What is your impression of The Running Man? Let us know some of your thoughts on the film!

After Impact

How long do you think you could survive something like this?

Oh, I would have died from a panic heart attack when they shot me down the tube.

Haha. So you aren’t even making it to the Sumo hockey player?

If I make it out of the little rocket thingy alive, ain’t no way I’m making that run to the ice rink arena.

Let’s say you make it and Sub Zero is standing there, how much of a fight are you putting up?

I’m probably just curling up in a ball sucking my thumb praying he ends me quickly. The crowd would hate it but it would be over for me.

What if instead of killing you…


They had to capture you…

Why do you do this every time?!

And if they capture you…

You just suck me. How am I not prepared for this by now?

You are forced to have sex with Lena Zero. How much of a fight are you putting up now?

Oh my God! I’ll be like Oh Dae-su fighting his way through the hallway in Oldboy.

So you winning the whole thing?

I will definitely be the last man standing if my punishment is that troll. Believe that.

That’s what I’m talking about!

So what’s my prize?!

You get to bang The Schumurnator.

Oh Goddammit!

Author: Vincent Kane

I hate things.