review for The Running Man on AllMovie

The Running Man (1987)
by Karl Williams review

One of the better adaptations of novelist and short story writer Stephen King's fiction to the screen, this tongue-in-cheek science fiction-adventure ranks among the best of star Arnold Schwarzenegger's futuristic film efforts; its success likely influenced the tone of his later, quite similar Total Recall (1990). Screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and John Herzfeld take a jaundiced but delightfully jovial and cynically twisted view of the public's passion for professional wrestling, game shows, and bloody reality programming (all of which would become even more popular in the years after this film's release). The result is a vision of a dystopian future that will be familiar to fans of such 1970s fare as Logan's Run (1976) and Soylent Green (1973), but with a decidedly late '80s sense of humor. Schwarzenegger and his wrestling co-stars (including future governor Jesse Ventura) provide their usual qualities: hulking, muscle-bound menace. They do what they were hired to do, which is essentially smash the living heck out of each other, vehicles, walls, etc. The sole acting performance is a great one from former actor and game show host Richard Dawson, wickedly sending up his own image in a savagely funny fashion. The Running Man is definitely not the type of film to take home Oscars, but it's enormous fun for both those who "get" the film's sly lacerating of the modern zeitgeist and those who don't.