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wayne kramer

Running Scared is one of those movies that really make you question what you, personally, consider to be a good, bad, or average movie. There are so many reasons why the film is nothing special, but then you take a look at it in pieces and you can see why it had all the promise of a cult hit akin to Pulp Fiction but really drops the ball on several important points.

The first hit against the film is leading man Paul Walker’s perception among movie patrons. Some see him as a tool, or a no-talent hack banking on his California good looks to land generic movie rolls abandoned by other actors who are either dead, or close to it. Many, including myself, have a hard time seeing him as anything but that undercover cop in the dialog-challenged Fast and the Furious. Although, after bombs like Timeline, he’s starting to take on rolls that abandon those he’d been known for in the past and take a chance, Running Scared is a good example.

Walker plays Joey Gazelle, who gets the credit for having the worst pun/name in a very long time (see, he’s “running” and his name is “gazelle,” yeah, you get it). Acting as a low level member of the very cliché Italian mob in New Jersey (so gritty, yet, a slight improvement over the real thing), Joey is tasked with disposing of a gun used to kill a dirty cop. Of course, things can’t always be that easy and Joey loses the gun after his son’s friend, Oleg (Cameron Bright), takes it and uses it to shoot his abusive, John Wayne-obsessed father.

Things, as you can imagine, get worse from there. Oleg runs about town with the gun which changes hands more times than the high school whore at an after prom party. The movie takes a few twists and disturbing turns throughout its runtime and, at a few points, really shows promise in its story, but the twists feel contrived more often than not with the ending being the final nail in the cliché coffin.

Written and directed by Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), Running Scared, as mentioned before, missed out on a few opportunities to really shine in a surreal way. The ending credits lend themselves well to the point I think Kramer was trying to make, about the film being a manipulation of a fairy tale, but this isn’t evident throughout the actual film, which steals some of the thunder that could have been generated.

The film is also particularly violent, in two separate instances groups of men are taken down with headshot after headshot until only one or two manage to walk away. Winning the award for “I-don’t-think-so-moment of 2006” so far is a massive gun shoot out between eight or nine men in a 10 by 10 room where a mattress and a dresser are your only cover. The other notable scene is the hockey puck torture that the studio includes in all the trailers and TV spots, and it certainly is as cringe worthy as it looks.

The supporting cast keeps the movie afloat when Walker is off-screen, but there’s nothing really special here. Vera Farmiga as Gazelle’s wife Teresa pulls out a pretty decent performance and delivers some of the best lines of the film when fending off a pair of pedophiles near the apex of the film. Her subsequent actions drew a few mild cheers from the crowd.

As the film winds down you’re left wondering how a movie with guns, violence, and a collection of nude women turned out to only be an average film channeling Kramer’s inner Tarantino and giving us a cliché ending that we saw coming a mile away. The audience won’t be “running scared” from the theater, but they won’t exactly be “running enthusiastically” towards it either.