Running Scared (2006) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for prervasive brutal violence, pervasive language, strong sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 122 min.

Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Alex Neuberger, Vera Farmiga, Karel Roden, John Noble, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner, Michael Cudlitz, Ivana Milicevic, David Warshofsky
Director: Wayne Kramer
Screenplay: Wayne Kramer

Review published February 14, 2006

It's one thing to play one of the sadistic console games like "Grand Theft Auto" and revel in the amoral antics that the game espouses, just for the fun of being a vicious badass in a fantasy realm.  While it may be exciting to play, watching it play out as a movie wouldn't be particularly thrilling, as the wanton mayhem doesn't really titillate as much when you don't have a personal connection to any of it.  Unfortunately for us, writer-director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) must think that what makes for a popular video game naturally would be attractive to audiences seeking similar entertainment.  If this was the plan, it wasn't a wise one, as Running Scared proves to be one of the most repugnant, disheartening experiences you'll ever have the displeasure to sit through this year.  Nothing is sacred in this egregiously sensationalized action-thriller, with terrible hyper-kinetic direction and silly dialogue only made memorable for the most liberal use of the F-word in perhaps any movie ever released to date.

Most of the movie takes place over the course of one fateful evening, where the local mob, or at least what appears to be them, ends up killing a room full of undercover cops.  The gun used in the killing is handed over to a small-time mob guy named Joey Gazelle (Walker, Into the Blue), whose job it is to get rid of the evidence before more cops come sniffing around.  While hiding the gun in the basement of his house, his 10-year-old son, Nicky (Neuberger), and his next-door neighbor friend, Oleg (Bright, Birth), catch him in the act.  Gunshots ring out later in Oleg's home, causing Joey to investigate, only to discover that Oleg has used the gun against his abusive father (Roden, Hellboy) and is now on the run.  The cops are after the perpetrator and gun in question, so Joey has to find Oleg and get back the piece before the cops use the ballistics evidence to tie him, and those he works for, into the hit on the undercover agents.

Running Scared is one of those grisly thrillers that is so graphic and sordid in its depiction of depravity, that less-hardened viewers will find themselves wanting to cleanse their minds of all knowledge of it immediately after viewing it, if they don't just walk out of the theater altogether.  The sensationalized violence quotient runs at an all-time high (or is that low?), as young Oleg journeys through the seediest parts of the town's most crime-ridden areas only to see things no 10-year-old boy, or anyone of any age for that matter, should have to see.  Deadly pimps, pedophilic snuff film makers, Russian mafia hit men, crooked cops, drug-crazed hookers and more are what he finds as he makes his escape, and still  he would gladly face all of them rather than be home with his cranky, physically abusive stepfather. 

After viewing a similarly grisly urban underbelly classic in the infinitely more clever Sin City, Kramer's excursion into the slime of the big city streets seems less than impressive in comparative execution, making this a movie only worthwhile to those that relish incessant acts of sadism and obscenity-strewn dialogue.  Kramer must have realized he didn't really have much of a movie here, so he sends it all wildly over the top with exaggerated characters, impossible physics, and stomach-churning subject matter. 

"That's really original.  What are you a cartoon?"

Walker's character utters these words to the nickel-slick pimp with a Tony Montana attitude near the end of the film.  The same question can asked about this outrageously insulting rubbish fully wallowing in the stench-ridden viscera of humanity.  This beyond-putrid concoction is strictly for lovers of gratuitous depictions of senseless brutality.  You've been warned.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo