Running Scared (1986) / Action-Comedy

MPAA Rated:R for violence, brief nudity, some sexuality, drug content, and language
Running Time: 107 min.

Cast: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Jimmy Smits, Dan Hedaya, Darlanne Fluegel, Steven Bauer, Jon Gries, Joe Pantoliano, Tracy Reed
Director: Peter Hyams
Screenplay: Gary DeVore, Jimmy Huston

Southside Chicago detectives Ray Hughes (Hines, Wolfen) and Danny Costanzo (Crystal, The Princess Bride) are out to put away a rising-star drug lord named Julio Gonzales (Smits, Murder in Mind), who is rumored to have killed an undercover cop. After some difficulties, they nail him, only to be forced to take a vacation in the Key West that has them sure they won't be coming back to the dreary big city streets. However, once they find out that Gonzalez has made bail and is out on the streets again, the boys decide to stick around to make sure Gonzalez is put away for good, if they live to see it.

Running Scared is prime example of the buddy cop movies that proved popular in the 1980s, mixing comic banter and deadly force with equal proportions. As far as the comedic side of things, it's one of the best of the bunch, with good repartee between Crystal and Hines, who were allowed the freedom to ad-lib wisecracks as necessary, often with hilarious results. Of course, their antics keep them in perpetual hot water with their superior officer (Hedaya, Wise Guys), while they have a hard time maintaining serious relationships. They also have plenty of fun with the criminal element, busting them and insulting them using the power of the badge to turn the tables (When they don't have the evidence to turn in a suspect carrying $50,000 in cash, they tell the thugs playing b-ball nearby about the sum and the fact that he will be all alone -- he immediately chooses to "play ball").

The action isn't as memorable as the comedy, but there are some impressive bits, including a high-speed car chase on the train tracks of the L. The end has plenty of explosive firepower and broken glass, although the motivations during many of these scenes seems more geared to what would look cool than would be logical at the moment (Ray climbs a mega-story building with window washer gear in order to drop down with bravado and shoot his machine gun suspended in air, though it would have been easier (and more prudent) to just break in on ground level). You just have to go with the flow of the nonsensical nature of it for the sake of the entertainment value, although interest in the film slows and the laughs dwindle mightily in the final third when the more serious plot device of having Costanzo's ex-wife (Fluegel, Eyes of Laura Mars) get kidnapped by Gonzales.

Running Scared aims strictly for the buddy action-comedy crowd, so if you're one who likes films of the 48 Hrs, Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, Stakeout variety, you'll find plenty to enjoy (it should be noted that it came out before all these notable entries but 48 Hrs. in the subgenre). It does at least stand out by not partnering two opposites, as the personalities of these cops are almost interchangeable, which is indicative of two men who know each other well and have been together for some time -- they are a team, each alone would be uninteresting without the other there to bounce gags off of. The main drug/murder plot is a bit of a drag, following strictly along predictable lines, but Crystal and Hines crack fresh and funny throughout -- they make it a fun ride. 

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo