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Overall Rating

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Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 0%
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Total Crap87.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Running Man
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"This is hugely popular in a country of a billion people?"
1 stars

This thing was the highest-grossing movie in the world last weekend, and I'm hoping like heck that China turning out for it in large numbers doesn't give Hollywood any ideas. It's vaguely worrisome enough that this sort of (mostly) unscripted television show is making the jump to the big screen, even if it wasn't done so poorly.

What is Running Man, besides an obvious invitation for legal action by whoever owns the similarly-named Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Honestly, even after seeing the film version, I'm not entirely sure. It seems to involve celebrity teams racing around urban areas in some sort of Survivor/The Amazing Race hybrid, with players eliminated when the large name tags on their backs are ripped off. For the film, the ten stars brought to a beach resort are divided into two teams. Li Chen, Zhang Kei, Lynn Hung, Wang Baoqiang, and Guo Jingfei are in red; Kim Jong-kook, Angelababy, Xie Yi-lin, Michael Chen, and Wong Cho-lam are in red; Yi Yi serves as "tour guide" and referee. The main challenge involves searching the resort grounds for puzzle pieces tied to the jungle legend described at the beginning, at least until a new twist is added.

If you have been keeping up with the Chinese films that have been getting near-simultaneous releases in North America and Australia with increasing frequency over the past few months, there are some familiar faces in that line-up, and a few skits and obviously staged bits toward the start help those of us not well-versed in Chinese and Korean celebrities get some idea of what they or their on-screen personae are like: The guys drool over glamour gal Angelababy, Wong Cho-lam and Xie Yi-lin have the snarky senses of humor, that sort of thing.

Nobody seems to be hyper-competitive, and there apparently aren't any prizes up for grabs, so watching Running Man is mostly about watching TV/movie stars walking about a nice location, snacking on things they've purchased from vendors' stalls (those vendors seeming to be the only other people in the area), and goofing around with each other. Just in case that wasn't freewheeling enough, cartoon graffiti like devil horns and silly sound effects get added, along with captions that probably wouldn't be that funny even if they were subtitled for those of us that can't read Chinese. It's a rather in-your-face style that just accentuates how what the audience is watching is trivial rather than exciting, which probably isn't bad in and of itself, but requires immersion into that tabloid culture as a prerequisite, a fascination which even those not approaching this movie as pop-culture tourists might not share.

Even without making value judgments about what it means to watch celebrities just because they are celebrities, this still seems pretty poorly done even by unscripted TV standards. If there's one thing that the best of those programs do well, it's creating drama and suspense through editing, and Running Man is just a terribly-cut movie. The first challenge has a tendency to cut to reaction shots in the middle of things actually happening to a truly maddening degree, and then once a team had won, the audience never gets to see the "prizes" (nice hotel rooms versus lousy ones), so the whole previous twenty minutes effectively doesn't matter. The bulk of the movie after that involves a scavenger hunt around an ill-defined location, conflicts without stakes and motives, and a twist that starts out under-explained only to become more confusing as the contestants try and explain what is going on to each other.

Granted, this may all be much clearer to fans of the original Chinese and/or Korean shows, as opposed to those of us who saw a highly deceptive poster with a few cast members we'd liked in previous movies. It's not necessarily hard to see where the show's appeal comes from - some of the puzzles are clever and there's a cheekiness to its self-referentiality and willingness to completely switch things up mid-stream - but that's for something you watch on TV while talking with someone or doing something else. Going out of the house and paying money to see the same thing...? Well, I hope it doesn't catch on.

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originally posted: 02/07/15 15:52:46
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User Comments

12/03/20 Jack Sommersby Perfectly summed up by Jay. Absolutely dreadful. 1 stars
2/08/15 Ricky Brown I liked it. 4 stars
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Directed by
  Jia Hu
  Junyi Cen

Written by

  Michael Chen
  Ryan Cheng
  Jong-Kook Kim
  Chen Li
  Baoqiang Wang
  Cho-lam Wong
  Yi-lin Xie
  Lynn Hung
  Jifeng Guo
  Yi Yi

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