The Running Man (1987) : The Worst Bookmaker in Cinema History

*Contains Spoiler Alerts*

In the world of 80’s action movies, The Running Man is one of my favourites.  Its no Predator or Robocop, but I can’t help but enjoy it.

As I watch it tonight though, it’s the behaviour of the outdoor bookmakers that has caught my attention.

Lets go back to the start though. Ben Richards is a former police pilot who, after refusing to shoot hungry poor people (see – he’s a nice fella), gets sent to a crazy labour camp where people seem to move metal about all day long.

Following his escape (he’s also cunning), he is caught and forced to participate in the sadistic TV game show called The Running Man on the ICS network, hosted by Damon Killian.

So here we go…Its Showtime!

As the show starts, the bookie in question is gathering a crowd around his big blackboard where he’s planning (from the looks of things) to be offering odds on 1st Stalker / 1st Blood / 1st Death and Final Stalker, split across the four game quadrants.

So now we turn to Edith Wiggins. Edith has been called out of the audience to pick the first stalker to take on Richards and his 2 friends (Laughlin and Weiss). As she thinks about it, our friend the bookie is out taking all manner of bets from the crowd on who will be the first stalker.  Edith goes for ‘Professor’ Sub Zero.  (off topic but can you imagine having him lecture you in University?!).

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Sub Zero turns up, now in his Ice Hockey Death suit and the fun begins.  To be fair, the Professor wastes a couple of early chances to get the job done (Richard is knocked out momentarily) but ultimately he ends up on his knees strangled by barbed wire.

“Sub Zero. Now Plain Zero.”

Leon, from the audience, is now struggling with the decision of who to send in next.  Killian helps by deciding to send out chainsaw wielding lunatic ‘Buzzsaw’, and opera singing, LED covered ‘Dynamo’.

2 stalkers vs Richards and his 2 mates.   Plus they’ve now sent Amber Mendez in as well.

The bookies aren’t shown here but its reasonable to assume that Buzzsaw is very strong odds to get the next kill. He’s on a bike (vs Dynamo’s strange GoKart) and has a chainsaw.  Early on he catches Laughlin and its looking very likely he will wrap this up soon. Then all of a sudden, rather than sticking with the chainsaw, he decides to drag Richards around on his bike.  The rope is out and around Richards, who manages to tie himself around a pillar,  forcing Buzzsaw off the bike. As he comes off the bike, we see the bookies again.

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As it stands (and this is before Buzz has come off the bike), they’re offering 10-1 on Buzzsaw for the 1st Death and 2-1 on Dynamo. Now, we start to see that these guys are doing some pretty strange things.  We know that virtually no-one (we later find out that its actually no-one) gets out of the show, so what options really exist other than Buzzsaw or Dynamo killing someone. And yet neither of the stalkers are odds on, even with Mendez, Weiss and Laughlin out there.

Anyway, Buzzsaw receives his own chainsaw where no man would want and he is finished. We can only presume that no-one has been betting on Richards here yet, so presumably the bets on 1st death continue.

Then from out of the blue, Dynamo electrocutes Weiss, and he’s done.   Richards chases him down and ends up leaving him trapped in his own insane opera-kart.

Laughlin then dies from the injury sustained by Buzzsaw. So based on this, the bookies need to be paying out 2-1 from Dynamo for the 1st kill, but also 2-1 on Buzzsaw having drawn 1st blood. But I’m guessing thats not breaking them too much based on how much they probably cleared from the Subzero bets in the first quadrant. Its a lot better for them than if Buzzsaw had actually killed Laughlin first.

Time for jet pack wearing, flamethrower firing, Fireball in quadrant 3…

Agnes from the audience – Time to pick your choice for who will make the next kill.

And Agnes…..Ben Richards.

Wait.

What the hell?

Someone is backing Ben Richards for the next kill?

Cuts over to our friends the bookies who on seeing this, are asked to take bets on Richards. They accept and in a moment of madness chalk up 100-1 on him.

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Now, aside from the fact that they’re writing the odds in the top box (can only assume its the heat of the moment), why the hell are they offering 100-1 on Ben Richards for the next kill? He has seen off 3 stalkers, and the reality is the Fireball actually is facing 2 less people (as Laughlin and Weiss are now both dead) that he can take out to get the next kill.  At this moment, even with the fact the Mendez is out there, I would be betting heavy on Richards.  We all like an outsider, but this guy isn’t even that. Its 100-1 in a 2 horse race. I put it to you that there is no better bet to take in cinema history than Ben Richards for next kill at this point. Its Richards 3, Stalkers 0 and you can get 100-1 on him.

And yet, Fireball finds Mendez and is about to light her up. But then, Richards again pops up, and kaboom. Thats the end of Fireball.

Presumably, here is where the bookies are having to pay out big time.  The bookies would have pulled it off if Fireball had just shot on sight as well.

So, now to the 4th quadrant. This one however is now via CGI as Killian has had enough.  He has turned to the boys in the tech room to rig up a computer generated version where Captain Freedom manages to kill both Mendez and Richards.

Fast forward and the revolution has happened.  Killian has been smashed into his own image on a billboard, and the TV network appears to have been shut down.  The crowds are celebrating, including (oddly) are the crazy bookmakers ,who from my maths have lost their bookmaker business for good.

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By the way – if you happen to see Mick Fleetwood, can you let him know this code…

18-24-61-B 17-17-4

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