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Running Scared
2006 - R - 119 Mins.
Director: Wayne Kramer
Producer: Bret Ratner, Sammy Lee, Michael A. Pierce
Written By: Wayne Kramer
Starring: Paul Walker, Vera Farmiga, Cameron Bright, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner
Review by: Ben Samara
Official Site: www.runningscaredthemovie.com/
   
While the title of writer/director Wayne Kramer’s latest work may be stale, the content of the movie certainly is not. Since 1972 there have been no less than five films with the title of ‘Running Scared,’ but none of those movies can boast to contain as much originality and flare as Kramer’s latest work. They definitely can’t top the number of curse words, either. What the film lacks in prose, it makes up for in creativity.

‘Running Scared’ follows Joey Gazelle, a low level errand boy for the mob who must dispose of a weapon used in a grisly cop killing. When a friend of Joey’s son finds the gun and uses it to shoot his stepfather, Joey begins a night-long mission to find the gun before word gets out it’s gone.

To put it simply, ‘Running Scared’ is a knock down, balls-to-the-wall action flick that is joyfully absurd from start to finish. It’s meant to be exhaustingly excessive, as if the filmmakers got together before production began and went through a checklist of what the typical guy would want in his action flick. Mix two cups of grotesque violence with about 500 curse words and a dash of unnecessary nudity, turn the oven up to about 5000 degrees and you get ‘Running Scared.’ If you’re a shoot-em-up fan, this is a must-see. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear.

Behind the camera, Kramer pulls all the tricks out of his bag. We get bullet-time shots, high speed shots, flashbacks, flash-forwards, double-backs, side-backs and every other back you can think of. ‘Running Scared’ is uniquely filmed and it is a credit to Kramer for not sticking to conventional techniques and trying something fresh instead. Even so, this type of hyper-direction does get a bit tiresome after a while. Luckily, Kramer eases off a bit during the second half of the film.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Kramer also wrote ‘Running Scared’ in addition to directing it. It’s no surprise to me that this is the guy who also wrote ‘The Cooler,’ a film that could have been exceptional but ended up being just mediocre because of its uninspired screenplay. ‘Running Scared’ is littered with cringe-worthy dialogue, pointless monologues and plot developments that don’t serve the story at all. The last 20 minutes are so littered with pointless plot twists and turns that really just seem unnecessary. Most of the time, Kramer knows he wants his film to be a ‘no-brainer’ action flick. It is when he veers away from that focus that ‘Running Scared’ falters.

For Paul Walker, ‘Running Scared’ is easily his best performance to date. I know that isn’t saying much, but it is worth noting. ‘Running Scared’ is just the latest entry into what I like to call the ‘Walker Anthology of Mindless Cinema’ – my personal favorite is ‘The Fast and the Furious’ – but it is a worthy entry nonetheless. Most of the time, Kramer conceals Walker’s acting chops, or lack thereof, by keeping the story on the run. When the story slows down to catch its breath, though, Walker is still serviceable.

The rest of the supporting cast ranges from excellent to downright awful. Vera Farmiga, one of the most underappreciated actresses working today, is mostly relegated to the background playing Joey’s wife. When she gets her moments to shine, though, she is always excellent. The same can be said for the always reliable Chazz Palminteri, who has a small but excellent supporting role as a crooked cop.

Most of the other characters are either poorly acted or severely underwritten. Of course, that’s not the point of ‘Running Scared.’ If you want to see mobsters shoot each other’s balls off at point blank range or fire hockey pucks at each other’s faces, you probably already know that this is the movie for you. Leave your brain at home and come prepared for a wholly original work and you shouldn’t be disappointed. If nothing else, you will be amazed by how memorable the film really is. ‘Running Scared’ is not a great film by any means, but it should get extra points for its novelty.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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