Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, and The Governator: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger one of the greatest actors of all time? And what does "The Running Man" mean for it, either way?
It could be argued that there are two prototypes for great actors.
There is the Brando, named for the actor who can play masculine prototype ("A Streetcar Named Desire") or wayward rebel ("The Wild One"). In other words, the actor is able to embody a broad range of characters. After all, isn't the utility of an actor his greatest asset, being able to mold himself like clay into any situation?
The other is the Bogart, named for the actor who to the Brando scale is an utter failure. The difference between his approach to a jaded but sensitive detective in "The Maltese Falcon" and his jaded but sensitive casino owner in "Casablanca" is minimal.
The Bogart, however, specializes in something different. He is less dynamic in what he brings, but due to this, as well as honed charisma, he is arguably more pungent. He is a known element, but a powerful one, and through multiple films, it becomes fascinating to see the same performer thrown into different situations.
Early in film history, the Bogart was the ideal. One need to look at silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; Brando himself brought in the new ideal, with Daniel Day-Lewis the modern master.
No one would argue Schwarzenegger is like Brando: his limited acting range is written all over "The Running Man" when it's not completely wooden. However, is he a throwback to the Bogart, an embodiment of a criticism on modern cinema?
"The Running Man" is a solid argument. The movie itself is hampered by low-budget television level staging, with set-pieces that look like they could come from comedy skit shows.
Although the film has a compelling premise, it does nothing with it, hammering in a romance that feels so forced the softest heart couldn't muster a flutter.
What it does have, though, is Schwarzenegger. Who else would you rather see beat up the baddies and wink at the camera?
Perhaps when Schwarzenegger quotes his famous catchphrase in "The Running Man," "I'll Be Back," he refers not just to himself, but a whole school of film theory.
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