The Running Man (1987)I believe I have been unfairly categorizing this as the movie where the Arnold Cheese really started getting out of control (I guess I'll have to push back to Last Action Hero as the starting point), but upon further review the movie has excellent internal consistency and works very well. It's been at least 10 or more years since I had last seen this and it appears all the one-liners in the 2nd half of the movie were what stood out in my mind. Pretty much every smirky delivery of a one-liner happens during the time where Arnold is on the show and I'll give a nod that he's actually doing that for effect because his character is playing it up for the home audience and/or trying to piss off Killian. His acting in the first half of the movie is much more restrained and completely appropriate.
Much like Predator before it, Arnold continues his cigar-chomping & larger-than-life persona here and this is another excellent vehicle for him. He gets to be the fish-out-of-water that he plays so well and he also has an excuse to ham it up while appearing on the show. For some reason, I had this pegged as a semi-serious movie that came off as a joke and I have no idea why upon re-watch. Intentional and clever satire all over the place and given how firmly tongue-in-cheek it is, Arnold's playing it exactly as he should.
Arnold's excellent comedic timing is put to good use here with not only some very fun dialogue, but some excellent expressions and great banter with Maria Conchita Alonso. Yes, you have to use her full name every time you mention her. Too many great lines to mention, but of special note is the snappy retort "Me and my big mouth. We should have taken that trip to Hawaii" "I had the shirt for it, but you fucked it up" and it's delivered in the middle of climbing down a rubble pile before Jim Brown shows up with the flamethrower, all in one take. Nice work by Jim here, he sure appears to be using a fully-functional flamethrower throughout the movie, action scenes and all, including one time where I think he pulls the trigger by mistake after getting hit by a thrown barrel. What kind of insurance did they have to take out for that crap?
Of particular note is Richard Dawson's truly excellent performance in this, his final pure acting role. I remember him doing the game show host bit well because that's 2nd nature to him, but he plays the conniving and egotistical maniac bits just as evenly and with real style. He's perfectly at home in this role and it really looks like he had a bunch of fun.
Now is a good time to give a special nod to Sven-Ole Thorsen, frequent Arnold co-star dating back to Conan, and worth noting this is the first Arnold movie where he lives. Also his first clearly audible, although not remotely intelligible, line. My friends and I used to speculate on exactly what the hell he says in response to Killian at the end when he's confronted by Arnold. Closest we could come was "I guess it's caused by steroids" or "I guess it's come from steroids" and we played that over and over. IMDB lists the quote as "I got to score some steroids" and I guess I'll run with that.
Anyway, up to this point Sven has been the awesome hammer-wielding, dead giant snake-mourning Thorgrim in Conan, a big soldier in Conan the Destroyer, one of the bodyguards of random lord-what's-his-name that Red Sonja beheads, one of the last mobster gunmen to die in Raw Deal, the Russian Officer who offs a prisoner in Predator, and now Killian's bouncer Sven. He doesn't usually get to do much, but he's got awesome presence, has some pretty great bits in Running Man, and will show up in 6 more Arnold movies. Arnold mentions him in the commentary on Conan and apparently they're still friends to this day. I just find it amusing how often Arnold gets to kill him.
Ahnold Quotient - 10
When I think modern Arnold, I picture this movie. Good action, plenty of comedy (some of it forced), and lots and lots of screen presence. A good example of really tweaking the screenplay to suit Arnold's performance envelope and to milk the most they can out of his accent and physique.
Rewatchability - Every now and then
It's still not my favorite, but I enjoyed this quite a bit more than I thought I would. The world they created is very fun and there are a lot of wonderful details in there. (Watch the credits on the monitor behind Killian when he thanks his crew after the "final" showdown) I could definitely watch this again, and it's a fun one to watch with friends.
Next up, another real tough pill to swallow: Red Heat. Argh. I've not seen it since it came out or maybe on cable shortly thereafter, so perhaps it doesn't suck as completely as I remember. Just have to get through that and then on to one of my favorites: Twins!