Review: Running Scared (2006)

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on February 24, 2006.


'Running' at an explosive pace

Paul Walker seems intent on making a name for himself. Last week he gave us Eight Below, and this week he stars in the action flick Running Scared. But if the latter is any indication, movie-goers can look forward to finally getting out of the cinema "dry season" -- January and February -- which typically delivers little worth watching. This film is surprisingly good, believe it or not.

Walker stars as mobster Joey Gazelle who, instead of dispensing guns after a mob hits, hides them in his basement. When his son's best friend uses one of these guns to shoot his abusive stepfather, it's a race against time to find the weapon before the cops and the kingpins. Walker delivers his best performance yet, shedding his Keanu-esque woodenness for some genuine emotion.

The film's greatest flaw is it settles for hit-and-miss in regards to its story. Many characters are flat and caricatured, while others become, at best, two-dimensional. The plot has a variety of twists, some of which feel tacked on and contrived, but others add a surprising amount of emotion to an otherwise purely testosterone-driven film. For example, the movie's shining moment involves an emotional and thematic punch that left the audience literally cheering for more.

This movie deserves its R rating. If you're looking for violence, gore, profanity (there more than 250 f-bombs) and soft porn, this movie is just what you need. Director Wayne Kramer portrays the world of the underground mob with all its gritty details. The characters may be one-dimensional, but the world they live in is nightmarishly twisted and the perfect setting for their amoral lives. Even the protagonist does little to evoke our sympathy, showing little restraint in his desperation.

Luckily, it's not about the characters and their moral compass. It's all about the action scenes, of which there are plenty. Kramer has managed to make these sequences feel fresh and creative despite the lack of character depth. The cinematography is kinetic, with the camera blasting through walls and maneuvering through the blood and bullets so skillfully it only adds to the adrenaline rush.

This movie will not win awards. It is not an example of quality storytelling. But, in the end, Running Scared achieves what it sets out to do -- take the audience on an unrelenting run through crime and corruption that will leave you gasping for air.