Paul Michael Glaser’s “The Working Man” (1987) felt like a top-tier Arnold Schwarzenegger car upon launch.
It was primarily based on a novella by Richard Bachman, who we later discovered was Stephen King. It adopted the competent, well-produced automobiles like “Commando” (clearly, Schwarzenegger had higher luck selecting films than Chuck Norris), and it was coming proper after an enormous house run with “Predator” earlier within the 12 months.
As a result of the premise prompt not solely a dystopic futurist parable but additionally the basic “The Most Harmful Recreation,” it appeared Schwarzenegger was lastly going to be recognized for greater than saying three phrases on display screen.
Schwarzenegger performs Ben Richards, a helicopter pilot who’s framed for a heinous crime he didn’t commit. He’s despatched to jail, then pressured to take part in a vile and wildly in style TV sport present known as The Working Man.
The host of the sequence can also be an influence participant inside the social construction of this corrupt world (not less than as a lot as Caesar Flickerman was in “The Starvation Video games”).
Steven de Souza tailored Richard Bachman’s novella and the dialogue is amusingly dopey. Early on, Schwarzenegger protests, “To hell with you. I can’t hearth on helpless human beings!” I’m unconvinced that even Meryl Streep might make that line work.
This performs like “The Starvation Video games” for grown-ups. Nevertheless, a film that goals to be this gnarly needs to be nearer to the no-holds-barred, surprising and good movie “The Starvation Video games” ripped off, which is “Battle Royale” (2000).
As a substitute, this has the crowd-pleasing security web of the previous and not one of the savage satire and barbarity of the latter. Nevertheless, it’s authentically a crimson meat ’80s motion film, because it turns us into the studio viewers and makes us root for carnage over anything.
Atop of racist stereotypes and broad caricatures on show, Schwarzenegger is taking part in an American right here. Sure, his character’s title is Ben Richards and, because it goes in a few of his different starring automobiles, we’re not meant to query why the very-Austrian Schwarzenegger is taking part in an American.
Nonetheless, we all know the character sort, as Richards is in full Kill n’ Quip mode and a becoming Schwarzenegger function.
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Richard Dawson is first charge because the host of “The Folks’s Community.” Enjoying a cross between Vince McMahon and Simon Cowell, Dawson steals the film and even has a fantastic exit.
After a powerful intro, Maria Conchita Alonso’s character turns into a fundamental damsel in misery Alonso, a dynamic actress, was truly higher utilized within the Schwarzenegger-less “Predator 2” (1990).
There’s additionally Kurt Fuller and New Line Cinema common and “Insidious” MVP Lin Shaye. Mick Fleetwood (resembling Nicol Williamson) and Dweezil Zappa have early cameo appearances and are enjoyable to observe appearing alongside Schwarzenegger.
Jesse “The Physique” Ventura exhibits up doing Hulk Hogan’s schtick and, simply in case the expertise record wasn’t wild sufficient, Paula Abdul did the choreography.
“The Working Man” certain needs to be “RoboCop,” because the omnipresent ICS channel that airs The Working Man sport present is to this world what OCP is to “RoboCop” (in truth, each have been launched the identical summer time). Regardless of how foolish that is, it surprisingly will get quite a bit proper about Actuality Tv.
It’s additionally campy, very ’80s and actually bloody for a 1987 R-rating.
Whereas too dumb and foolish to succeed as satire, it’s involving and grasps the narrative pull of a company’s means to drag in and preserve a grasp on the lots.
One other contact I appreciated: De Souza is right in assuming that 2017 TV executives wouldn’t know what “Gilligan’s Island” or Mr. Spock is.
The fanatical devotion in the direction of Actuality TV depicted right here jogged my memory of the time John Carpenter (no, not the filmmaker) received “Who Desires to Be a Millionaire,” and “American Gladiators,” “Survivor,” “The Wonderful Race” pointed to Actuality TV getting actually unhealthy, actually quick.
Submit-“The Truman Present” (1998), it’s not arduous to think about “The Working Man” airing on prime time tv, although presumably with a decrease physique rely…for now.
Det. Starsky-turned-director Glaser’s path is TV-ready, together with scenes ending with cuts to exteriors, like a TV present after a business break. Glaser’s solely directorial credit score after this was, of all issues, the Shaquille O’Neal genie comedy, “Kazaam!” (1996).
In Schwarzenegger’s 2012 autobiography, “Whole Recall: My Unbelievably True-Life Story” (spoiler: the title doesn’t lie), he complained over Glaser’s dealing with of the sensational materials and expressed unhappiness that the unique director, Andrew Davis (who later directed Schwarzenegger within the 2002 “Collateral Harm”) was changed.
Schwarzenegger’s dismissive evaluation of the movie isn’t completely truthful. Whereas not a basic and or on the extent of both “The Terminator” (1984) or “Predator,” “The Working Man” is principally “The Most Harmful Recreation” crossed with “Rollerball” plus a splash of “Escape from New York.”
It really works.
Whereas it’s straightforward to select on the casting of Schwarzenegger because the very-American Ben Richards and the star’s struggles with English have been current at this level, this isn’t a nasty car nor a profession misstep.
“The Working Man” didn’t earn the respect of James Cameron’s “The Terminator” (1984) but it surely was successful and one other title that pushed the star in the direction of his trajectory with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991).
Most wouldn’t contemplate Schwarzenegger an actor, however he would show everybody mistaken. He wound up having an sudden aptitude for comedy (“Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” the bizarre however watchable “Junior” and particularly “True Lies”) and drama (whereas little seen, Schwarzenegger’s efficiency within the “Maggie” is as understated and noteworthy because the movie itself).
The previous Mr. Universe is such a compelling display screen presence that, even in films like this, he makes his casting work. Few film stars can pull that off.
Harold Faltermeyer’s John Carpenter-esque rating is an enormous plus. The third act is crass and foolish, because the heavies are all attired like “Mad Max” villains. It’s all very WWF, notably the Iron Sheik and Junkyard Canine period.
If solely the combat scenes weren’t so clunky.
Contemplating that this got here out within the period of Morton Downey Jr., the chair toss at Geraldo Rivera, however earlier than many years of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich chaos, the depiction that essentially the most blood thirsty gladiators are the viewers members was useless on, then and now.
The movie’s greatest achievement is that it makes the purpose that the true savagery is within the stay studio viewers. If “Community” (1976) was the prophetic, mental tackle this premise and “The Truman Present” (1998) is the light allegory of how TV shapes the lives of its watchers and merchandise, then “The Working Man” could possibly be just some years forward of being the true factor.
I hope that’s not true, but it surely definitely appears like ICS-like sweeps week mayhem is true across the nook…if it hasn’t arrived already.