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Overall Rating
3.34

Awesome: 18.75%
Worth A Look50%
Average: 3.13%
Pretty Bad: 3.13%
Total Crap: 25%

6 reviews, 28 user ratings


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Running Scared (2006)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. Bring Me the Head of Paul Walker"
4 stars

“Running Scared” is a blood-soaked thriller so deranged and over the top that I was not surprised at all to discover that the end credits contained a dedication to noted filmmakers Sam Peckinpah, Walter Hill and Brian De Palma. Like Peckinpah’s underrated masterpiece “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,” it tells a lurid and brutal tale that is so laughably implausible that it crosses over into the realm of black comedy. Like the characters in Hill’s best works, it features a hero who is bounced from one violent situation to another and somehow manages to make it to the next scene under his own power, even after he has taken no fewer than three hockey pucks to the head. And like practically every De Palma film, the whole story is a testament to the virtues of stylistic excess–if there was a scene that didn’t feature some elaborate visual flourish or gimmick–one extended sequence is shot almost entirely in blacklight–I must have somehow missed it. The result is one of those films that is so heedlessly excessive, silly and demented that even if you hate it, you’ll still have a sort of grudging affection for its willingness to fearlessly go where most movies would fear to tread–even though 2006 is only a couple of months old, I suspect this will go down as either one of the best bad movies of the year or one of the worst good ones

Paul Walker stars as Joey Gazelle, a low-level mob flunky who gets to do the dirty work for his superiors. As the film opens, a drug deal he is participating in is invaded by a masked gang and, in the ensuing gun battle, one of Joey’s superiors kills one of the invaders and he is revealed to be a dirty cop. Joey is given the hot gun and ordered to get rid of it as soon as possible. Instead, he takes it back to his house and stashes it in a hole in the wall with a bunch of other guns. This is witnessed by Oleg (Cameron Bright), the best friend of Joey’s stepson Nicky (Alex Neuberger) and the son of violent next-door neighbor Ivan (John Noble). Since Ivan likes to beat up on Oleg and his mother (Ivana Milicevic), Oleg pinches the gun and takes it home with him. After Dad smacks him around for not properly appreciating the John Wayne film “The Cowboys” (the only one in which he died), Oleg is inspired by another scene in the film–the one in which a sweet-faced kid is forced to gun down a bad guy–and puts a slug in his shoulder before fleeing. Once Joey figures out what happened, he realizes that he has to track down Oleg and retrieve the gun before it can fall into the wrong hands.

Inevitably, the gun falls into a series of wrong hands and each set inspires new levels of brutality and weirdness. On his own, Oleg is first used as a pawn in the attempted robbery of a crack den and then uses the piece to prevent an evil pimp from smacking around a prostitute who has dared to go behind his back to study for her GED. Eventually, the kid and the gun are separated and Joey winds up journeying into darker and darker circles in his quest for it, all the while being shadowed by mob cohorts who suspect that something is up. Oleg, for his part, is captured by the crooked cops, manages to escape and unfortunately winds up in the clutches of a couple (Bruce Altman and Elizabeth Mitchell) who introduce entirely unforseen levels of perversion to an already unsavory stew.

All of this is sort of fun on a flashy and superficial level and I found myself sort of getting into its extra-gross bully-boy groove. That said, I must admit that while it does pay suitable homage to its various sources of inspiration, it never quite transcends them in order to fully strike out on its own ferociously original terms. When Peckinpah or De Palma would tell one of their grotesquely over-the-top sagas, their excesses generally had a point behind that many critics and audiences wound up overlooking because of all the blood and bizarre behavior. Here, there is no underlying point or direction to the mayhem other than to jolt an increasingly jaded audience. For a while, it works on those terms but the film sets the bar of grisly excess so high right from the start that it winds up exhausting itself in its constant efforts to top what has already been shown. By the climax–in which much blood is spilled and many plot threads are unraveled in the middle of an abandoned hockey rink–I was feeling as punchy and delirious as most of the characters and at least they had the excuse of being a few pints short.

As you may have guessed, “Running Scared” is lurid and almost unspeakable trash and it may come as a shock to some to learn that it was written and directed by Wayne Kramer, whose previous film was the strikingly different “The Cooler.” Where that film was elegant and refined, his work here is more in tune with the sensibility of a 12-year-old boy who has been playing “Grand Theft Auto” for so long that it has scrambled his brain to the point where a pimp, hooker or thug is lurking behind every corner and even the simplest declarative statements require the kind of language that would make David Mamet blush. It isn’t an entirely comfortable fit at times–while someone like De Palma could pull off something like this in his sleep, you can occasionally feel the strain of Kramer’s efforts to shock his viewers–but even though the scenes don’t exactly tie together in a coherent manner (especially in the ludicrous finale and epilogue), they do, often as not, work as individual set-pieces. Even those hardened by a decade of people trying to out-Tarantino Quentin Tarantino may find themselves grudgingly impressed by some of the sequences here, even the queasy thrills and payoff of the whole segment with that creepy couple.

It may sound like I am coming down negatively on “Running Scared” but if you can get past its superficiality and sheer nastiness, it is an admittedly stylish and entertaining bit of bruising pop cinema. Most of you–at least the sober and rational types amongst you–will probably throw up your hands (among other things) in horror at the very thought of this film and decry it as being one more symbol of the downfall of civilization. To be honest, there is a part of me that feels that very same way but I cannot deny that I found myself far more amused and intrigued by its gory and goofy charms than I could have possibly anticipated when I sat down into my seat. Movie fans who are willing to embrace such strangeness instead of recoiling from it are likely to find themselves equally intrigued by the tawdry wares it has to offer, even though they may quietly speculate afterwards that everyone could have saved themselves a lot of wear and tear if Oleg’s father had the good sense and taste to show his kid “Rio Bravo.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14057&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/24/06 16:03:11
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User Comments

9/01/11 Quigley This film is on some serious drugs. Tiring and eventually quite annoying. 2 stars
11/16/09 art HORRIBLE! 1 stars
10/09/09 PAUL SHORTT AN ABHORRENTLY EXPLOITATIVE EXERCISE IN CHILD ENDANGERMENT 1 stars
8/02/09 Jerome C. great flick! Brianorndorf and Paul Bryant suck dick! 4 stars
1/04/09 caiphn Absolutely terrible. What the fuck is wrong with people? 1 stars
2/11/08 Pamela White action and good screen play 4 stars
10/23/07 Pim L This is a very good movie, don't care what you say. Go back to moviereviewguyschool. 5 stars
7/02/07 Thoithoi O'Cottage The best-edited film I have ever seen. I want my film to be edited by Arthur Coburn. 5 stars
5/01/07 Monday Morning The feelgood film of the year! 5 stars
4/05/07 Matt Another "what the fuck was tghat all about movie." Just what the world doesn't need. 1 stars
3/25/07 Steve Newman Absolutely outstanding - I would recommend to anyone 5 stars
2/08/07 Andre urbani stupid, but in a good way 4 stars
1/27/07 AJ Muller Stands with Freeway as a modern-day twisted fairy tale; easily offended need not apply. 4 stars
1/09/07 Zaw Very good action flick, good editing, good screen play, I loveit!PW is undercover again WTF 5 stars
11/09/06 Paul Bryant should be fired It's an over the top satire. PS,you rated starsky and hutch as a good movie and hated this? 4 stars
10/13/06 John Doe It's a rare flick that doesn't flinch from what it is. This is one. 5 stars
8/22/06 Shane Petri Completely Twisted Movie 5 stars
8/16/06 kemper boyd i liked it, whass this about paul walker's competent performance?? naah. entertaining still 4 stars
7/25/06 Indrid Cold I'm not sure why people think it's so over the top; it's a pretty standard crime thriller. 3 stars
7/12/06 Agent Sands The quintessential example of an action movie. 5 stars
6/25/06 malcolm pretty good but extremely f-ing contrived. camera tricks were distracting, not entertaining 3 stars
6/18/06 SeeDough Paul Bryant is a jaded tool. 5 stars
3/31/06 Priscilla Postlethwaite A plethora of false endings in search of a movie. 2 stars
3/08/06 ROY L. CAIN Except for the ending, the exact description of Hell ! 5 stars
2/28/06 Perry Mason Insane enough to for a rental. Paul Walker still can't act though. 4 stars
2/27/06 Jules This movie is all-out crazy. The cinematography was interesting with some really cool fx. 4 stars
2/26/06 Evil Wolfie It's slick. It's violent. And every scene is filled with some crazy ass filming technique. 5 stars
2/26/06 varyouga Holy Fucking Shit. The first movie with an acceptable level of violence. And a plot too! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Feb-2006 (R)
  DVD: 06-Jun-2006

UK
  06-Jan-2006 (18)

Australia
  N/A (MA)
  DVD: 07-Feb-2007




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