150 Movies in 90 Days: The Running Man and American Psycho 2

So. Far. Behind. I'm buried beneath a buttload of writing work and a final draft for an independent study course that ran into the summer. It's okay, because like Todd Parker in Boogie Nights, "I gotta plan, I gotta very good plan." In the meantime, I'm just trying to watch a movie whenever I can, so I've got two more, including the first certifiable turd of the summer.

July 2- #30, The Running Man

If you've seen The Hunger Games or American Gladiators, this will seem very familiar
When I saw this was readily available to watch for free (even available in its entirety on YouTube), I knew I had to see it, mostly because it's one of a few notable holes in my 80s action film viewing history. An Arnold film, shot in his prime, that I haven't seen yet? Blasphemy!

I don't know how I got through my childhood, which was literally spent watching rated R movies, without seeing this. After all, Commando and Predator were classics that I watched dozens of times. Anyway, while watching this, I was aware that grown up me may not see it as impressionable ten-year old me might have, so I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt.

And right away, The Running Man tested my resolve. I mean, watch the first scene of this film and tell me that's not legendarily bad acting, even by Arnold's standards. I mean, that's like Cinemax soft porn acting. I'm telling you, I've seen plenty of Arnold's films, and that's bad acting, even for him.

You know what's not bad? Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom. Ventura either got the memo about how over the top he was supposed to play Captain Freedom, or simply reverted to his pro wrestling days, because Captain Freedom is pure gold. Of course, this is an 80s action flick, so there are other great touches to enjoy as well. Want a woman working out in lingerie? There you go! Want a villain who wears hockey gear and kills with a bladed goalie stick? Why not, here you go. How about a couple of corny one-liners after Arnold kills bad guys? Sure, you know we've got that covered here.

There are some interesting ideas here, doubtlessly coming from the Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) book of the same name. Many of the ideas can be found in something like The Hunger Games. You've got a government that controls everything and has separated the nation into "districts", a competition where your life is at stake, and a reality show that documents said competition. Between this and Battle Royale, it's almost like Suzanne Collins just plain ripped off these concepts and pieced them together, knowing that her target audience wouldn't know the source material! But we all know people don't really do things like that, right?

Pictured: the FIRST "Sub-Zero". No, really.
Anyway, instead of talking about what has ripped off the ideas in this film ("American Gladiators" also obviously coming from the competition in the movie), let's talk about some of the issues. For one, it's a story of a government that rules with an iron fist, but they still have to "convince" Arnold's character, who has been framed and is a convict, to participate. Then, they go ahead and force some of Arnold's buddies and the obligatory love interest to participate, making you wonder why he had to agree and other people could simply be forced.

That kind of stuff is to be expected though, I guess. There's a lot of great stuff here, though. One of the prizes you can get by competing on the show is a trial by jury. Ha! A guy gets launched into a target and killed and Arnold says, "Well, that hit the spot." On top of it all, this is an 80s version of what people actually expected life to be like in 2017...four years from now. There's a lot of great stuff here, even if this doesn't stand alongside Arnold's other classics. Grade: B

July 5- #31, American Psycho 2

Check your brain at the door

Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time watching movies knows that there are different kinds of bad. There's so-bad-it's-good (a cousin of so-dumb-it's-funny), there's bad on purpose, and there's lovably bad. Then, there's just plain bad. Not bad in an entertaining way, not bad on purpose as a kind of parody, but just awful. I'll let you guess which one American Psycho 2 is.

I knew that I should avoid this. I knew. In a way, that's why I watched it- to see if it was as terrible as I expected. I'm here to tell you, American Psycho 2 did not let me down.

First of all, it is a sequel in name only. Basically, it's an incredibly stupid story of a girl (played by a 19-year old Mila Kunis, seen here during the middle of her run on "That 70's Show") who first says she's obsessed with getting a prestigious position as a teaching assistant with her professor  (which almost always leads to a shot at being an FBI investigator) so she can find and kill other killers, Dexter-style.

To accomplish this, she has to take care of the students who she thinks are her biggest competition for the job. To do this, she kills them, even though she's a freshman and freshmen aren't eligible for the position, as is pointed out early on in the story. Oh, but then again, how is she in a class with juniors and seniors taught by a former elite FBI profiler, in that case? Oh, fuck it, who cares.

The story takes place in apparently the smallest college in the world, which is located in the smallest town in the world. We know this because we see the same ten people over and over again, and they all know each other extremely well. The psychiatrist that Rachael (Kunis) sees is best buddies with her professor (William Shatner, I shit you not), for instance. Oh, and when Rachael's parents visit her and they go to a restaurant, it's the same restaurant that her psychiatrist is at, because there's only one restaurant in town, too.

Fortunately, even in the world's smallest town, people don't notice when others simply disappear, or are murdered in the middle of the day at a table in the public library. This allows the story to continue even as dead bodies rot in the library or in dorm rooms, as everybody blissfully continues their lives, unaware of the rotting carcasses around them as Rachael keeps doing her thing. I mean, I can suspend my disbelief, but this movie takes it a little far. For instance:

- Her psychiatrist breaks client/doctor privilege and calls the professor right away after his first consultation with Rachael, saying she's a "sociopath". Why? Because she said, "I have to have this teaching assistant position" in a very determined voice.

- During a car chase at the end, one cop chastises another for "driving 60 in a 30" even though they're chasing a criminal. He even writes the guy tickets and gives him a running total of his fines to try to get him to slow down. It was at this point in the film, I realized that everyone in the town is completely nuts.

- Oh, and how is this tied to American Psycho? Well, there's a flashback in the beginning where Rachael explains that her babysitter was obsessed with serial killers and decided to take her over to Patrick Bateman's house one night. Bateman was about to kill them both when Rachael escaped and stabbed him with an ice pick from behind. When both Batemen and the babysitter were found dead, it was a big mystery and she "was never placed at the scene", even though her fucking babysitter was there.

Seriously, fuck this movie. Grade: F

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