THE subject of this column was to be a different film, but "They Live" proves to be the perfect follow-up to last week's "The Running Man."
As discussed last week, "The Running Man" is a movie sustained by Arnold Schwarzenegger star-power, but limited by poor production and a plot that mostly squanders a great premise.
"They Live" starts in a similar situation. w
We have a lead performance by Roddy Piper. He doesn't have the film career of Schwarzenegger, but that isn't a knock on Piper's star power. Although he doesn't have the instantly impressionable physique, years of spotlight in the "squared-circle" of the wrestling ring have proven his star quality. What he lacks in formidable presence is made up for by a quick wit and a warm, worn look.
He's thrown in a world where TV stations are being hacked by an underground group that claims to want to expose a plot that secretly aligns political and corporate interests. Without giving too much away - it's on the poster - Piper soon gains a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that these power brokers are actually aliens! More so, with these glasses, he's able to see through their propaganda in the form of corporate advertising: a billboard advertising Caribbean vacations says "marry and produce," clothing tags read "no independent thought," etc. In the film's famous catchphrase, Piper only has one thing to do, and it isn't chew bubble gum, it's kill the aliens.
"They Live" is equal parts action film and science-fiction genre flick, and is willing to bask in long action sequences, including its unprecedented five-minute two-fan fist fight.
Impressive action is to be hoped for, if not expected. More essentially, it does something that "The Running Man" never does and constantly digs past the premise to unveil interesting tidbits of information. It allows "They Live" to be appreciated on two levels simultaneously: viscerally and intellectually.
The message here is clear: be wary of powered elites. But reading that message is reductive and uninteresting. Seeing the message in action, ripped apart by a pro-wrestler? A much more interesting prospect.
'They Live'(1988) Where to see it: Dada (115 Xingfu Rd, near Fahuazhen Rd)
When to see it: tonight, 9pm
What to see: This 1980s cult-classic from director John Carpenter stars pro-wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as an unnamed drifter who encounters a secret alien plot. It's equal parts schlocky fun and compelling commentary.