Running Scared – Review

31 Oct

I’m the kind of guy that loves an action movie that isn’t afraid to push everything way over the top. Hell, I could watch the Crank movies on repeat any day of the week. Much like Crank, Wayne Kramer’s 2006 action thriller, Running Scared, is certainly not a film that’s afraid to go way overboard in quite literally every aspect of its presentation. When done correctly, this kind of film making can heighten the movie watching experience, and it definitely does that in some, if not most, moments in this film, but it also detracts from it at the same time. This feeling of being slightly uneven makes Running Scared a good film, but not a great film.

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Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is a small time gangster working for mafioso Tommy Perello (Johnny Messner). During what should have been a simple drug deal, a trio of masked crooked cops led by Rydell (Chazz Palminteri) burst in and threaten to steal everything and murder everyone. After gunfire erupts, two of the cops are dead and Rydell is on the run leaving Perello to entrust Joey with the pistol that was used to kill the two cops. Instead of dumping the gun right away, Joey goes home to see his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son Nicky (Alex Neuberger). Unfortunately for Joey, Nicky’s friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) gets a hold of the gun to get revenge on his step-father (Karel Roden) for his acts of abuse, but soon the gun becomes lost in the seedy night time underworld leaving Joey to speed through the streets trying to find it, but danger seems to literally lurk behind every corner.

As you would probably expect, one does not have to think a whole lot while they’re watching this movie, but I was actually really surprised when I began losing track of the plot at certain points. Luckily, I know exactly why this was happening to me. As I said before, this movie goes way over the top in the way it tells its story, it almost feels like a graphic novel. The problem is that it goes too far over the top in terms of plot contrivances, twists, and motivations. It seems like something new came along in every scene to completely change the course of the movie. It seems like a million and one different events and motivations just mush together in the span of a two hour movie that it was hard to keep track of it all.

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Now to talk about what’s awesome about Running Scared is the excellent action sequences and really cool editing. First of all, the action in this movie is turned up to 11. This isn’t to say that this is the kind of movie that has non stop gunfights and what have you, but when it does happen, things get really crazy. Blood and chunks of gangsters fly all over the place in such a way that reinforces my looking at this as a graphic novel put to screen. One awesome scene in particular has a gunfight occur in a hockey rink that is lit entire by black light after the ice was specially painted. The editing and the action go hand in hand like a match made in heaven. The camera flies all over the place, while the editing fast forwards, rewinds, or halts the action to sudden slow motion. Images flash across the screen and colors and frames get distorted. With an action movie that can get as insane as this one does, kinetic editing is crucial and is a huge success in Running Scared.

In keeping with the tradition of this review, I think I also need to talk about how (at time ridiculously) over the top the acting is. I can’t say I’m a fan of Paul Walker, especially with my lack of interest in the Fast and the Furious movies. In this movie, he has a lot of energy and hams it up in an entertaining way, but sometimes it just felt weird. For most of the film he just came off as a loud and arrogant protagonist that I know I wouldn’t get along with if I ever met him on the street. The villains on the other hand, with special nods to Palminteri and Messner, ham it up to perfection. My favorite performance in this movie is actually Vera Farmiga, who really doesn’t seem to be her normal self. There are moments in this film where she really seems to be playing the role with enormous amounts of honesty and seriousness, which can’t really be said about the hammed up performance by everyone else.

I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t have a really good time watching Running Scared. There’s really nothing in this movie to take too seriously, even though the film often deals with serious themes. It’s lack of organization can make things confusing and the acting can be a little overbearing at times, but watching this movie is like seeing an insanely kinetic and violent graphic novel come to life. Do yourself a favor and don’t think too hard while you’re watching this because I don’t think that’s what the movie is all about. Instead, treat this film simply as an above average action movie who’s purpose is to get your adrenaline going for a few hours.

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