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Night of the Running Man
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Illogically Functional Ride"
3 stars

Went straight to video, and its worth seeking out if you come across it in a bargain bin somewhere.

That always-welcome character actor Scott Glenn has quite the macabre introductory scene in the ludicrous but enjoyable action thriller Night of the Running Man. His David Eckhart, the best, most expensive hit man in the country, has just gotten through with some mind-blowing sex with a high-priced prostitute he frequents whenever he's in town; but when she makes clear she wants to find out his real name and everything about him, he lets out a sigh of both frustration and disappointment knowing she's just sealed her fate - with an evil smile he precedes to break her neck, and before departing the bedroom he places five one-hundred-dollar bills on her nightstand and a red rose on her wide-eyed corpse. An intelligently suave sociopath, Eckhart is a plum role for the underrated Glenn, who I thought gave the best performance in the overrated The Silence of the Lambs as the FBI Behavioral Science chief, and he makes a memorable villain here. Eckhart's latest assignment brings him to Las Vegas where an employee of a Mob-controlled casino has stolen one-million in cash and attempts to flee the city and flags down nebbish cabdriver Jerry Logan (appealingly played by Andrew McCarthy), but the taxi is followed and run off a service road by the henchman, with the employee killed and Jerry left with a damaged car with a briefcase full of cash, though why the bad guy left without retrieving it is anyone's guess. (Oh, that's right - there wouldn't be a movie afterwards!) From here the story consists of Eckhart trying to track down Jerry, kill him, and retrieve the money for Wayne Newton's crime boss (yes, that legendary Las Vegas singer Wayne Newton, who actually lacks the power and menace for the part). Nothing inherently wrong with any of this, and McCarthy, long-haired, goateed and fleshier than usual, is perfectly adequate as the hero; also noteworthy is the dynamite John Glover as an associate and rival of Eckhart's, Derek Mills, who demonstrates his quintessential sadism by torturing a tied-to-a-chair Jerry by lowering his bare feet into a bowl of scalding water that's hair-rasingly staged and isn't for the faint of heart. Still, to get through "Night of the Running Man" you have to ignore gaping plot holes and logic loopholes out the kazoo. Knowing the well-connected Mob is after him, why does Jerry give his real name to buy both train and airline tickets when the agents never ask him for proof of identification? If his ultimate destination is Los Angeles (though you'd think he'd want to get a lot farther away from Sin City than that) why doesn't he just rent a car rather than get a train ticket to Vancouver to get off at Salt Lake City to go to that airport to fly off with his name on the airline manifest? And knowing the Mob will stop at nothing to get their money back, why does he wait so long before getting the hell out of his trailer house when surely he should know his crashed and abandoned taxi can easily be traced back to him? I could go on and on. Yet the director, Mark L. Lester, who gave us the enormously entertaining Arnold Schwarzenegger star vehicle Commando, keeps things fast-moving and colorful to where we're carried away by the movie more often than not even when the editing occasionally clanks and the viewer can think of several better ways for Jerry to effectively disappear, with the top one just buying an inconspicuous used car with cash. Lester has blown hot (Class of 1984) and cold (Firestarter), with the ratiocination-deprived Night of the Running Man landing somewhere in between.

Definitely tests the perimeters of "suspension of disbelief."

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originally posted: 11/16/20 05:52:27
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  04-Feb-1995 (R)



Directed by
  Mark L. Lester

Written by
  Lee Wells

  Scott Glenn
  Andrew McCarthy
  Janet Gunn
  John Glover
  Wayne Newton

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