The boys in blue get face-lifts from the Sully Brothers and guest host Jungle Bri as they pitch their very own Avatar movies!
Future, dystopian America, 2037
Almost identical to the original film, we open on a close up of police helicopter pilot Ben Richards (Will Smith). He’s given a direct order to fire on a group of civilians during a food riot and refuses. He’s detained and eventually framed for the massacre of these civilians through some fancy editing of the live body cam footage from the event.
We catch up with Ben Richards and his friends in prison several years later. William Laughlin (Garrett Dillahunt) and Harold Weiss (Alan Tudyk) are part of a resistance group looking to take down the government by hacking into the ICS broadcast, but their previous attempts landed them in prison.
The three find themselves working alongside one another in the mines off planet when a fight breaks out between several inmates. They had been waiting for just such an opportunity. Richards and Laughlin use their size and former military training to quickly overtake one of the guard booths, where Weiss is able to hack into the computer systems running the work camp and reprogram the implants within the prisoners that keep them hostage. These implants would normally detonate when a prisoner breached one of the electronic fences surrounding the fields (instantly killing them), but with Weiss’ hack, they could all safely run without fear of that happening. The three flee but are almost immediately separated outside of the work camp.
Ben Richards makes his way to the employee housing, located several miles from the work camp, and breaks into the first unit he can find. It turns out to belong to Amber Mendez (Rosario Dawson). He holds her hostage and promises not to harm her if she will help him get back to Earth, using her travel privileges. She has seen the news footage of Richards and the massacre and, even though he states he has been framed, she doesn’t believe him and fears what he will do, so she helps him and looks for her opportunity to escape.
At the space transport (futuristic airport), Mendez takes her opportunity to out Richards at the security check and he is taken into custody once again, but this time it is under the direction of ICS, who runs the popular Running Man TV show, where convicted criminal “runners” must escape death at the hands of professional killers.
Just like in the original film, Richards is coerced into participating in the show, bribed with his freedom if he survives. The advertising for his upcoming episode begins to air almost immediately and catches the eye of Mendez. Mendez sees that Richards is portrayed incorrectly in the media (they state that he killed several and injured more during his attempt to return to Earth) and does a bit of investigation of her own. As it turns out, her brother actually works for ICS and she uses his credentials to log into their secure servers, where she finds the original, unedited footage of the Bakersfield massacre. She downloads the clip and sets off for earth to help Richards.
Richards’ episode of The Running Man starts and finds himself playing alongside his friends Laughlin & Weiss. Showrunner Killian (Karl Urban) had tracked them down for the show and the ratings boost. The three go into the Running Man course and the show begins. Watched by a live studio audience and billions of people around the world, they fight for their lives against the “Killers.” These professional athletes turned prime-time murderers have slaughtered hundreds of contestants before and there is no indication that this episode will be any different, that is until Richards and his friends begin to battle and WIN against the Killers, played by Dave Bautista and a host of other WWE stars playing characters like Dynamo, Captain Freedom, Fireball, Buzzsaw and more.
As the show goes on, Killian is under pressure from the government to pull the plug, but the ratings boost and potential profits are too much for him to shut it down. While all of this is going on, Mendez is caught leaving the housing complex near the prison camp where Richards and team escaped. Her download of that original footage triggered multiple alarms and ICS abducted her before she could make it to the authorities. As a punishment, they frame her for assisting Richards in his escape and toss her into the same Running Man show alongside Richards, Laughlin and Weiss.
The team works together to fight the Killers and as they work their way from one level to another, they realize they can’t follow the rules of engagement forever. At the beginning of Level 5, Richards avoids the Killers completely while the rest of the team fights. He uses the opportunity to search the level for exits and finds a way “off camera” and into one of the media control rooms, hidden behind a false wall on the set. Thinking that will simply be a way for them to possibly exit, he returns to the group to show them what he’s found. Unfortunately, he arrives seconds too late. Laughlin is injured horribly by one of the Killers and dies before Richards can get to him. Richards overtakes the Killer and is able to guide Weiss and Mendez to the control room.
Between Weiss and Mendez, who had managed to smuggle a copy of the video out with her (maybe stored in some sort of futuristic memory storage within her body), they are able to upload the video and broadcast it publicly across the web. This causes an immediate panic within the audience, who riots and overtakes the show. Even the ICS employees on hand turn against the company.
Richards, Weiss and Mendez use this opportunity to escape down to the first floor and main stage. During their exit, they come across Killian and his armed guards. An epic battle goes down and at several points some very large, very pointy beams and boards nearly kill Weiss by impaling him thorugh the chest, but in every instance he narrowly escapes (a nod to Firefly). Richards eventually overpowers Killian, all on camera. Instead of killing him, Richards decides to turn him over to the authorities. After all, it was never his intention to kill anyone. He only did it out of self defence before.
Killian is exposed and convicted for crimes committed in the production of the show. Richards, Weiss and Mendez are pardoned and freed. But, as we all know, the show must go on. At ICS headquarters, we focus in on a boardroom meeting. A discussion/argument about the future of the show is underway and the main topic seems to be who will take over the show. The camera zooms in on the chair at the head of the table, turned so we only see the back. A puff of smoke (clearly from a cigar) rises over the chair back and the chair turns to reveal Arnold Schwarzenegger. Someone shouts “what are we gonna do. As President of this company, you have to make a decision.” Schwarzenegger says “well, I can think of only one man for the job. I guess I’m Back!”
Future America: The class division has widened as population increases. Poverty, famine, disease, unemployment and crime are at all-time highs. The well-to-do 1%, as always, look down on the lower class as a burden on their fragile society, blamed for the hell they were born into.
With the struggle to find work and little access to health care, the 99% are left with one option to stay afloat: The Games. Whether they compete in dangerous contests for money or play as audience participants, The Games are as pervasive as the crowded cities’ polluted air.
There is one game no one wants to play, a deadly rigged lottery no citizen can win, but with a prize too coveted to resist. In The Running Man you are hunted. America is the playing arena, every citizen the eyes and ears for the Hunters, specialized assassins sent to kill the players.
Every hour you survive means money for your family. Survive for 30 days and you are moved to the upper echelon of society: Mansion for a home, limitless funds, everything your heart desires.
The longest run to date: 8 days.
Ben Richards, tall, modest build, in his early 30s, is working his way through his neighborhood. Littered with trash and people, echoes of raspy coughs and haggling at makeshift marketplaces, Richards questions every black market and drug dealer he can find (all on a first-name basis), searching for medicine for his sick daughter. He’s a charming smart-ass who people seem to respect, even if they don’t like him, but his mission is a bust. Richards returns home to his wife empty-handed. He says what was available, they couldn’t afford.
They talk options, which turns to fighting, arguing over her plan of prostitution and his decision to burn bridges with his last employer. In the background, The Games are playing on the television, their daughter watching a man stick his hand in darkened holes in a game called The Wall of Mystery. The announcer emphasizes that some holes contain cash, others contain ‘not cash.’ Right after the contestant screams, a jingle alerts both husband and wife to look at the screen.
A lottery of names is announced, each name receiving $100 and one free hospital visit. The husband and wife eagerly watch, but no one in the Richards family is called. Their young girl begins a fit of coughing. Ben says it’s time he got in line for the games.
In the shadow of Games Tower, a skyscraper walled in giant screens televising The Games, crowds gather, many in line for entry. The crowd watches clips from the most recent episode of The Running Man, highlighting winning Spotters, members of the public that successfully identified contestants in the wild. The ones which directly led to a Hunter’s kill cheered for the cameras with their cash bonuses. Commentators talk about gangs that have formed in most cities which have taken to hunting contestants despite it being against Games rules. Nevertheless, it’s suspected many attack contestants, then report them to get a spotter reward.
A little after mid-morning, a new wave of people join the lines. Day laborers and rejects from the employment offices, they say there isn’t a job left in the city. A friend of Richards is in line. He says they’re turning away more people for the games these days, but payouts are better, and prior contestants can reapply even sooner. “I played just last week and got $200. They even covered my medical expenses,” he says, waving a bandaged stump where is hand used to be.
The line is moving slowly. Everyone is on their comms devices, similar to a mobile phone issued by the city as an ID/tracker/and video device used by everyone for The Running Man games. Richards uses his periodically to check in with his wife, then eventually makes it inside the tower.
We watch Richards go through rigorous testing, physical and mental. He’s shown to be smart, smarter than those giving the tests, and his sense of humor goes unappreciated. He moves up the building floor by floor, more tests, more questions. The waiting rooms get smaller and smaller; a mass of men and women dwindle down to just a few. He and the others, Laughlin and Jansky, figure out what they were in for before they were told.
They talk about the big games of the past, how one guy lasted 5 days but was disqualified because he ran to the hills and couldn’t get a comms signal. No comms, no proof of life, no money. They agree the average survival is 4 days, the contestant that made it to 8 was outstanding, pissed off the Hunters so much they sent in the lead Hunter McCone. Some say the guy was so afraid of McCone he killed himself. Others say McCone talked him into doing it.
They’re on a high level of Games Tower now, looking over the city below. Everything here is swankier, the pumped in air is cleaner, the staff is even more attractive. Laughlin and Jansky are each called away. They go into a huge office and come out with women on their arms and smiles on their faces. Finally, Richards is taken to the grand, posh office. It’s Killian’s office, director of The Games.
Killian is cool, condescending without being insulting. He explains to Richards that he’s been selected for the greatest game of all, The Running Man. Killian reviews the details: America is free reign, 48hr head start, $500 every hour you survive. Kill a hunter, it’s another $500. Keep your comms device with you at all times, but you can’t contact anyone except Games Tower, and send two daily video confirmations you’re alive.
Killian assures Richards they don’t use the comms device to track him; it’s not sportsmanlike. He asks Richards if he wants anything, anything at all, before the game begins: women, food, etc. Richards asks for bourbon and books, and that the money from his 48hr head start be sent to his wife for their sick daughter.
Killian seems to break character, relaxing his rigid, royal demeanor. He says he personally chose Richards, that he likes him. He likes his smart mouth and his no bullshit attitude. He thinks it’ll make for good television. He hopes he’ll last awhile and gives him some advice to do so: Stick to your own people.
We get a montage of the three contestants saying goodbyes to families over comms and celebrating their final days, talking only briefly about strategy. Richards says they shouldn’t stay anywhere long, always be on the watch, and get a weapon, just in case. The others don’t want to think about what’s coming, but soon enough, it’s time. The men suit up, there’s introductions to the crowds (Richards gives the world the finger), and the games begin. Laughlin, Jansky, and Richards are Running Men.
Richards puts together a disguise and gets a black market comms device from his old friends, allowing him to travel and get a hotel far from Games Tower. When the 48hr safety window runs out he hides in a shanty town in the poorest part of town, his people. A spotter gang sets fire to his hideout and Richards escapes among the homeless. He emerges from a sewer to find a kid willing to help him for a few dollars. Richards hides in the trunk of the kid’s car and gets driven through several checkpoints across state lines. He gets word that Jansky is dead.
He meets with a friend of the kids, Parrakis. She can take out the tracking component of his comms device, just in case Killian decides not to honor his gentleman’s agreement, but her mother knows who Richards is and calls the police. Richards and Parrakis are in a car chase with the police and hunters and spotter gangs, and in their final escape, Parrakis dies and Richards is broken.
He hobbles out of the city and through a forest to meet up with an upper class woman, Amelia Williams, out for a drive. He holds her hostage. Along the way the news reports that Laughlin was caught and killed. Blowing through checkpoints and getting into shoot outs with police and hunters, Richards and Williams escape again and again. The public, once set against the Running Men, are now rooting for Richards. He’s survived 7 days when they reach another airport, surrounded by every manner of authority and a cheering crowd. McCone is there too. He’s not big like Richard’s imagined, but he’s intimidating nonetheless, and he’s had enough of this running man.
Pretending to have an IED, a lie supported by Williams who has begun to feel sympathy for Richards, they are allowed onto a jet, but McCone goes with them. The plane takes off, McCone all the while talking to Richards, getting in his head, trying to get him to admit there is no bomb. Hours into the air, moving low over populated cities, Killian calls Richards to congratulate him. He’s beaten The Running Man record and he want to offer him a job. They’ll still have to show the public Richards was caught and killed, but Killian wants Richards to work on the games with him. Sadly, Killian tells Richards that his wife and daughter were killed by a spotter gang hoping to get information on his whereabouts.
Richards is devastated, not sure if Killian is telling the truth, but he accepts the man’s offer. McCone is furious. The plane is routed back to Richard’s home city and gaming headquarters, Games Tower. In the city, riots are forming, the 99% turning on the authorities and tearing through the neighborhoods of the 1%.
High above, unaware of the chaos below, Richards kills the pilots and straps Williams with a parachute, kicking her off the plane.
In a final shootout, Richards kills McCone, but is mortally wounded. As a panicked air control tower calls asking what’s happened, Richards, slowly dying, takes control of the plane and flies it directly at Games Tower. Killian looks up from his grand desk in his posh office to see Richards’ face from the cockpit. He’s smiling, his middle finger held high.
The boys in blue get face-lifts from the Sully Brothers and guest host Jungle Bri as they pitch their very own Avatar movies!
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