Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Running Man (1987)

"I told you I'd be back."

It would be easy to praise this film for its prescience about such things as reality TV cruelty, ratings cynicism and the use of television to politically dumb down the populace. But (with a nod to The Year of the Sex Olympics) this was all done much more intelligently, and with much more metatextual wit, in a 1985 Doctor Who story called Vengeance on Varos. Unfortunately this has probably caused me to underrate The Running Man which is, to be fair, a rather good film of hilariously '80s at times.

It's that far-flung future year of 2017 when a tyrannical government has removed all civil liberties and political rights, replacing them with arbitrary rule and brainless television to whip up the reactionary fervour of the masses- a bit like Fox News but not as evil. 

It's a problem to believe in the future they present, unfortunately, because of the film's sheer Eightiesness. The hairstyles and computer screens date it instantly, and even the opening titles are uncannily like the video to M.A.R.R.S.'s "Pump Up the Volume". It's also a very cyberpunk, dystopian future, which was very much in the zeitgeist at the time, as was this particular sort of scenario, as shown by the above mentioned Doctor Who story. One thing was prescient, though: a stalker called Sub-Zero decades before Mortal Kombat.

Arnie is, well, Arnie, not so much acting as doing his stuff, and Jessie Ventura hand it up delightfully as Captain Freedom. It's a surprise to see Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa as members of the resistance but they acquit themselves well. 

It's s good film, I admit. It's just that it's hard to entangle from much of the other stuff that was in the zeitgeist at the time and it just doesn't come across as being very original. Worth watching, though.

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