|Running Scared (2006)
Starring: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner, Vera Farmiga
Director: Wayne Kramer
If there’s any movie that’s sure to draw a line between those that love it and those that hate it, it’s going to be writer and director Wayne Kramer’s dizzyingly hyperviolent “Running Scared.” Much like Paul Haggis’ “Crash,” in which similar battle lines have been drawn, there is likely to be a split down the middle between supporters and detractors for this film, albeit to a lesser extent, as even those who are sure to love this film would never claim it as an Oscar contender.
Wayne Kramer, who gained a reputation as a capable director for 2003’s “The Cooler,” follows up that gritty Las Vegas tale with this heavily stylized mob story set in New Jersey. “Running Scared” revolves around Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), a low-level hood in a cliché-riddled Italian mob that’s caught between his duty as a thug and loving family man. When Joey ignores orders to get rid of a gun used to kill dirty undercover cops during a botched drug deal, he inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that puts his family in danger.
Much like “The Cooler,” which featured characters and events that stretched the boundaries of plausibility, “Running Scared,” to a much greater extent, is chock full of similarly cartoonish figures. Gold chain-sporting guidos, John Wayne-obsessed Russian mobsters, hookers with hearts of gold, albino pimps, suburban pedophiles. They’re all here and Kramer, either boldly or densely, is unapologetic for any of them. He revels in the stupefying absurdity of these characters and the ridiculous situations he concocts for them, but in doing so makes the audience eager to bask in the film’s lunacy as well.
Paul Walker is an adequate lead but bland compared to his co-star Vera Farmiga, who plays Joey’s wife, Teresa. More so than any actor in the film, Farmiga makes use of the nonsensical dialogue and ludicrous situations of her character, and somehow finds a way of making them seem believable. But the anchor of the film is thirteen-year-old actor Cameron Bright, who already has co-starred in films alongside Robert De Niro and Nicole Kidman. Bright, working with the least dialogue, turns in a solid performance using mostly facial expressions and body language.
“Running Scared” is not going to be liked by everyone. The film is extremely violent and vulgar, missing few opportunities to show skulls being blown apart, or making gratuitous use of every swear word in every possible form. Enjoyment of this movie also requires more than the usual suspension of disbelief, as every moment of it seems to be lifted directly off the pages of a particularly silly comic book. It’s full of illogical twists and it’s despairingly predictable, but despite all this the film remains endearing in a way. One gets the feeling that deep down inside there is something more to “Running Scared,” even if its potential is never fully realized.
The DVD release of “Running Scared” isn’t exactly filled to the brim with special features, but the extras that do appear on the disc are well worth it. Along with a full-length audio commentary by writer/director Wayne Kramer, the DVD also includes a thirty-minute making-of featurette (“Through the Looking Glass”) and storyboards for the film’s biggest action sequences, the hotel room and hockey rink shootouts.