"Running Scared": A trip through a dark city

Thu, 03/02/2006 - 1:41pm
By: Michael Boylan


The producers of “Running Scared” put the first six minutes of the film, unedited, on-line. I had bearing a little bit of buzz on the film and decided to take a peak. It was bloody, profance and filled with a kinetic energy that few films that I have seen recently have employed. I decided to go check the whole film out and I was surprised. Even though I knew that the movie would likely be filled with scenes of gritty crime and violence, I was taken aback at just how much dark stuff was pumped into the film.

I think I was also surprised that it wasn’t detrimental to the film. The violence and, well, just general bad stuff, was so over the top that it was like being on a Disney ride from Hell. You’ve waited in line (thanks, Madea), strapped yourself in and just go along for the ride. It is a fairly entertaining ride too, which is saying something since Paul Walker (“Into the Blue”) is the lead.

Walker plays Joey Gazelle, a low level mob employee who’s sole job is to get rid of guns that are used in mob crimes. Gazelle doesn’t get rid of them though. He keeps them hidden in his basement just in case the mob wants to get cute and try to whack him, he has enough evidence to put them all away for a long time. It’s a good plan, as long as they don’t fin out about it, but when a troubled neighbor kid named Oleg steals a gun to plug his abusive step-dad, they find out. So does a dirty cop, whose partners were killed by the same gun, and so does the Russian mob, who had kicked out the step-dad for being a meth dealing guy who didn’t have the guts to kill. Gazelle now has to find the kid and the gun before his employers find out he didn’t ditch the piece and what follows is a harrowing night in an urban nightmare brought to life.

While the audience goes back and forth on whether or not we care about Gazelle and his predicament, we root for Oleg to remain safe, which isn’t easy when he encounters crackheads who use the kid and his gun to rob the dealer down the street, savage pimps and the creepiest couple on the face of the planet in what is one of the most disturbing sequences in cinema that I can recall. What makes that sequence so....icky...isn’t what you see, which isn’t much, but the dread of what you think might be coming and the tension as Oleg is trying to avoid a nasty outcome at their hands. The big finale is also a fun scene that will keep viewers on the edge of their seat and watching the action unfold through the gaps between their fingers.

“Running Scared” is no classic. It’s not a “Reservoir Dogs” or “True Romance,” but it shares the same sensibility. What I liked about it most was its willingness to go all out and forget about the consequences. Director Wayne Kramer decided to make a good movie about bad people and, for the most part it worked. The performances, while not great, are solid. Walker does a fine job burying his good looks in facial scruff and eventually a lot of blood, while Vera Farmiga, who plays his wife, is a revelation. It’s too bad “The Sopranos” is entering its final run of episodes as she would make a fine addition to the cast.

The film is a little long and some of the visual effects are a bit showy and they are done a bit too much. It is a different type of movie though and I am glad that it was made and that I saw it. if you like action films or crime thrillers, this is one original flick and it deserves an audience.

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