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"Running Scared"

Directed by Wayne Kramer.
Written by Wayne Kramer.
Starring Paul Walker, Vera Farmiga, Cameron Bright and Chazz Palminteri.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  2/26/06


Pervasively profane and violent--this one really gave "Casino" a run for its money in both departments--"Running Scared" works as an adult thriller even though its mob-and-dirty-cops script is riddled with mafioso clichés.

Paul Walker, who usually looks like he is just the pretty boy that's along for the ride, is actually pretty sharp here as Joey Gazelle, a mob henchman that is attached to Tommy (Johnny Messner) when the film opens up during a drug deal between the local XXXX, New Jersey mob and some unlucky Jamaican thugs.  The deal is interrupted by three robbers out to get their hands on the drugs and the money for their own devices...but, things don't work out that way, and a bunch of bodybags later, Joey realizes that those robbers were a little more than that--they were dirty cops!  Tommy gives Joey the easy-looking task of getting rid of the mobsters weapons, but in trying to stash them at his house, Joey doesn't realize that the next door neighbor's kid (Cameron Bright) has designs on killing his abusive father, so when that father winds up with a bullet in his chest from one of the dirty weapons used in the cop killing, Joey has to track down the kid and the gun before all hell breaks loose with the law and his own mob brothers.

Like I said, at no point does the script feel original, but over the course of the next two hours, "Running Scared" is still very engaging, thanks to a few factors.  First, the language in this film can only be described as "colorful."  Written and directed by Wayne Kramer--the man that introduced "muff confetti" to us in the Vegas thriller "The Cooler"--"Running Scared" has truly pervasive use of the f-bomb and throws us multiple uses of the c-word for good measure; even the kids in this film are constantly cursing.  Over two hours, you almost don't even hear it any more, much like it was by the second hour of "Casino", when Joe Pesci's character was coming up with new ways to curse out everyone in his path.  That, combined with two long, violent action sequences, pimps, some sexuality and kiddie porn (making sure to leave no stone unturned), makes "Running Scared" just about the most un-family-friendly film to come out in a while.

So, as sensationalized entertainment goes, "Running Scared" is consistently watchable.  That still doesn't make the overall product great.  While Walker's performance is fun--he plays the low-level mob grunt role perfectly, along with looking like he is finally energized to be in a film--some of the other cast members are ridiculous, none more so than Chazz Palminteri (the sucker cop from "The Usual Suspects"), who looks like a ham trying to play a heavy-handed profane dirty cop; Bright does have the look of a scared kid but supposedly playing a child of Russian parents, he seems to have an accent in some scenes and no accent in others...odd, since he's playing an American child of Russian parents.  The mob guys, led by Messner's performance, are right out of the handbook, complete with enjoying strip clubs, hating African-Americans, shrugging their shoulders incessantly ("Hey, Vinny, I don't know where he is, okay?") and wearing insane amounts of jewelry.  Being that the film is set in New Jersey, "Running Scared" almost gives one the impression that it was shot on the backlots of "The Sopranos" with extras from that HBO series.

The film also seems to be a bit too creative with the random shooting styles employed here; someone from a Missy Elliot video shoot clearly was involved in the editing process because at times, "Running Scared" is totally on crack trying to show us very simple things like Joey getting into his car or Joey punching an unsuspecting thug.  It all combines for an over-the-top film experience, not unlike a Tony Scott film (I'm thinking last year's "Domino", as an example), with even less substance.  "Running Scared" is a fun ride, no doubt, but when you get up to leave, you're not really sure how you should be feeling about all this nonsense...but, maybe that was the point.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09