Pic, based on a novel by Richard Bachman (Stephen King), opens in 2017 when the world, following a financial collapse, is run by a police state, with TV a heavily censored propaganda tool of the government. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Ben Richards, a helicopter pilot who disobeys orders to fire on unarmed people during an LA food riot. He’s slapped in prison and escapes 18 months later with pals Yaphet Kotto and Marvin J. McIntyre.
Producer-host of the popular TV gameshow The Running Man Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) orders Richards up as his next contestant and he is duly captured and made a runner in this lethal (and fixed) gladiatorial contest for the masses.
Format works only on a pure action level, with some exciting, but overly repetitious, roller-coaster style sequences of runners hurtling into the game through tunnels on futuristic sleds. Bloated budget was $27 million.
Schwarzenegger sadistically dispatches the baddies, enunciating typical wisecrack remarks (many repeated from his previous films), but it’s all too easy, despite the casting of such powerful presences as Jim Brown and former wrestlers Jesse Ventura and Prof. Toru Tanaka.