Running Scared (2006)

DVD Cover (New Line Studios)
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Overall Rating 68%
Overall Rating
Ranked #1,626
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A low-ranking thug is entrusted by his crime boss to dispose of a gun that killed corrupt cops, but things get out of control when the gun ends up in wrong hands. --IMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: February 27, 2006
There is no doubt in my mind that director Wayne Kramer knows precisely what he is doing in every single scene of every single film he has ever made. His previous directorial effort, "The Cooler" was one of the best films of that year and did something no other film has dared do - it gave William H. Macy a love scene that, had it not been cut down, would have given the film an NC-17 rating. "Running Scared" is the exact opposite of "The Cooler". There is action. There is suspense. There is enough tension to fill the AstroDome, the Hoover Dam, and Star Jones' appetite. This is one hell of an adrenaline rush of a film that doesn't let up for the entire two hours of running time. And, you know what - those two hours go by quicker than any two hours I think I have ever sat through. "Running Scared" is the kind of film that moves at such a frantic pace, you are always thinking you missed something. Don't worry. The actors missed it too. Even they can't keep up with everything that is getting tossed their way. Normally, that would be a bad thing, but this flick was just so damned entertaining. This was the most excited I have felt since watching "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" a few months back. "Running Scared" is the biggest surprise of the year, and one hell of a energy-fueled ride.

This film is about two characters - Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), a thug for a local crime boss who, between hails of gunfire and pools of blood, finds time to sexually molest his wife over the washing machine and take his son to local hockey games; and, Oleg (Cameron Bright), the son of Joey's Russian neighbor who also happens to be the best friend of Joey's son, Nicky (Alex Neuberger). The film opens with a shootout between Joey's group and some crooked cops, where two police officers wind up dead. Joey is given the responsibility of hiding the murder weapons. One of the guns, however, falls into the hands of Oleg, who uses it to shoot his spousal abusing stepfather in the shoulder, thus sending him on the lamb. Joey realizes that this gun could get him into a world of trouble and he sets out to find Oleg, and the missing firearm before the police get ahold of it and link the gun to the murder and back to Joey. The rest of the film is a race against time. Everyone is looking for the gun. Everyone is looking for the kid. Everyone is watching Joey. Tick tock tick tock. The film follows both Joey and Oleg on their respective journeys, along with the route the firearm takes. It is interesting how Cameron Bright's character becomes just as essential, if not more so, than Paul Walker's character in this film. This is very much a character driven suspense thriller.

Along the way from beginning to end, this film takes some surprising twists and turns. Chazz Palmenteri pops up as a crooked detective hellbent on extorting Joey and his pals, getting a chance to do some decent acting for a change - it had been a long while since I had seen Chazz Palmenteri in something worthwhile. Bruce Altman and Elizabeth Mitchell, in two of the creepiest and most shocking performances in recent memory, turn up as two pedophiles who kidnap Oleg and take him to their 'house of horrors', where body-bags hang in the closet and toys turn into terror. The film also gives us several scenes of intense violence, from that opening shootout where a police officer is castrated, to the final showdown at the hockey rink, where the New Jersey crime boss and the Russian mob boss square off, once and for all. There is also an interesting sequence where Paul Walker is brutalized with hockey pucks. What adds to the overall 'cool factor' here is that the entire scene takes place under black-light. Why? Because it looks incredible and it makes "Running Scared" an instant 'word-of-mouth' movie. People are going to run out and tell their friends to see this film as soon as possible. "Running Scared" could very easily be the new "True Romance" for blood thirsty moviegoers.

Last, but not least - Paul Walker. This guy has never really impressed me as an actor. I thought he was cute enough in "Pleasantville", but I have never considered him to be a leading actor. "Into the Blue"? "Eight Below"? He just strikes me as someone who belongs in that whole Vin Diesel category of actors. Well, "Running Scared" changes that for me a little. Paul Walker does a fine job with this role, and though most of it is merely screaming and acting like a badass, he does it surprisingly well. He has to use a lot more emotion in this role than in most, and I give him credit for not making me doubt his sincerity once in this motion picture. I also enjoyed Vera Farmiga as Joey's wife, Teresa. She is given much more depth in this role than is allotted by most thrillers. Her scene with the pedophiles is one of the true highlights of the film - she handles it exactly how I want to think anyone else would handle it. As for the rest, Chazz Palmenteri was back in old form as the crooked cop, though I really wanted to see his character given a little extra scene time. He needed more time to chew the scenes.

Kudos to director Wayne Kramer for giving us an R-rated film that actually was an R-rated film. This is the kind of flick that usually gets chopped down to a PG-13, so all the kiddies can run and catch it at the cinemas. "Running Scared", however, is not for kids - I cannot stress this enough. It is bloody. It is violent. It is creepy. This subject matter is the definition of 'adult subject matter'. You don't want to have to explain to your kids what those two adults are doing in that room full of children's toys. "Running Scared" was a genuine surprise and a real delight. I expected a disaster, but was given a delight. Paul Walker is utterly watchable, and Wayne Kramer has given us yet another thoroughly entertaining motion picture experience. This is nowhere near "The Cooler" caliber, but it was one of the best films I have seen all year long, even with a slightly cliched ending. "Running Scared" rocked, and I hope that some of you will agree with me on that.

crAckerr #1: crAckerr - added May 24, 2006 at 2:49pm
I usually don't agree with all your ratings, but I do 100% on this one. Such a great movie, I think I would would also give it a 9/10.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added December 14, 2009 at 6:01am
I've never been a fan of Paul Walker, and going into this film for the first time, I really had no idea what the story was about. I can't stress enough how impressed I was with this film. It wasn't just your typical run-of-the-mill gangster movie. There were a lot of twists and turns, and quite a few story arcs added in to beef up the story. Again, agreeing with Meanie, it was nice that the film received an R rating. It allowed the director to put out a quality film, rather than that fluffy shit you usually see flooding the screens. I saw it for the first time about 3 years ago, and gave myself just enough time to forget some of the aforementioned twists and turns. Made for a great watch the second time around as well.

9/10 sounds about right.
Rest Easy Soul #3: Rest Easy Soul - added July 27, 2010 at 10:49am
It went on for way too long and once the final act started you wondered how many more times you would see a final act. Some stuff in the movie just made you say "WTF" like the child abductors. The first half of the movie was great, but the second half killed it.
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