The Hunger Games

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(2012) ★★½

Channel 4: Saturday 16 May, 9pm

Reluctant but resourceful heroine Jennifer Lawrence is whisked from Winter’s Bone backwoods to take part in the Capitol’s annual ‘tribute’ – fights to the death between randomly selected teenagers, monitored by TV. Director Gary Ross looked back in affection with his memorable pieces of Americana, Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Now he looks forward in anguish to much less engaging effect with a derivative slice of teen fiction – it’s Arnold Schwarzenneger’s The Running Man, buffed up by an extra hour or so, but minus the jokes and Day-Glo lycra. Mind you, some of the Capitol costumes and hair-dos are straight out of the complete works of Tim Burton. It’s a kind of Battle Royale with cheese. Which continues to be spread – thickly or thinly, depending on your point of view – in the further adventures of Katniss Everdeen, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Talking of cheese, Film4’s screening the aforementioned Running Man on Tuesday at 11pm. The satire may be laboured, but the action premise is fun: “What’s a-matter? Steroids make you deaf?” I wouldn’t say that to Schwarzenneger, would you? It’s from a story by Richard Bachman – in other words, Stephen King writing on autopilot.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 142min