Published on January 7th, 2006 | by Paul Greenwood0
Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner, Michael Cudlitz, Alex Neuberger, Ivana Milicevic, John Noble, David Warshofsky
Running Scared begins with a bang and a drug deal that goes badly wrong when some crooked cops show up and the whole thing turns into a bloodbath. Low level mob soldier Joey Gazelle (Walker) is entrusted to get rid of the gun that killed one of the cops. Hiding it in his basement while he decides what to do with it proves to be a big mistake as, before he can dispose of it, his son’s friend Oleg (Bright) has stolen the gun and used it to shoot his abusive stepfather.
Now Joey has to get the gun back before the cops (led by Palminteri) get their hands on it and make it for the same one that killed their guy while trying to stay out of the way of his bosses who are suspicious that he hasn’t gotten rid of it like he says he has. The fact that the stepfather is related to the Russian mob who Joey’s bosses are in bed with only complicates things further. With Oleg on the run and everyone after him, Joey is in for a long night as the gun passes from hand to hand, always just out of his reach.
If you’re familiar with video games such as Grand Theft Auto, you’ll have a good idea of the flavour of Running Scared. It actually plays like a game as it takes us from level to level, confronting all the pimps, whores and scumbags along the way before finishing at the lair of the big boss. It’s pure exploitation of course, the sort of movie you thought they stopped making in the ’80s. It positively wallows in its excesses and emerges all the better for it, with proper violence, proper swearing and proper nudity.
Director Kramer orchestrates the mayhem with skill and gusto – the opening gunfight is blood spattered brutality of the highest order not witnessed since the salad days of Paul Verhoeven, and the climactic battle even manages to generate some tension as well as a startling revelation. Most of the actors are there more for their look than their name but everyone is very well cast, bringing presence and character to very familiar roles. Even the usually bland Walker makes for an appealing anti-hero, once again demonstrating that, in these sort of movies, it’s easier to like an honest criminal than a dirty cop. Outrageously entertaining if you’ve got the stomach for it.