Running Scared

1 stars


2nd March 2006

Paul Walker stars as a... chances are, by this point, you'll already know if you want to go see Running Scared or not. Destined to be remembered as 'that one out of The Fast and the Furious that wasn't Vin Diesel', Walker is now apparently seasoned enough to play a leading man - if claims that he was to be the 'new Keanu Reeves' were to be taken seriously, then I guess this would have to be his Point Break, only with more guns, more gore and more swearing. To be honest, it's more like the Spinal Tap of action movies; unintentionally hilarious and proud of being one louder than its competitors. (Spoilers contained within)

Joey (Walker) is a low-level mobster, whose sole purpose is to get rid of 'hot' weapons once they've been used. When Joey and his cohorts wipe out a gang of corrupt cops, it's his job to make the guns disappear, but instead of doing what all us likeminded folk would do and chuck them over the neighbour's fence, he decides to store them in an easily-accessed cupboard, in full view of his son and his best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright). The young Russian lad (who looks for all the world like a mini Pete Doherty) steals one of the hand-cannons and decides he wants to inflict some gunishment on his abusive father, but only ends up wounding him. On the run and in possession of a gun that could send Joey and his family to jail, our himbo anti-hero is tasked with tracking down the little pumpkin-pie haircutted freak in some of the most fucked-up downtown areas of (don't laugh) Jersey. To be frank, the story reads like a sixth-form screenplay, with the boxes next to 'drug deals gone wrong', 'lots of guns' and 'crooked cops' all checked with thick red crayon.

Right from the opening gun-battle, you'll get a clear idea of exactly what audience the team behind Running Scared are aiming for; namely the kind of audience that laughs when they see people getting shot in the crotch. The director would call it 'visceral' and 'ballistic' but I'll call it as it is: 'bollocks'. Even something as simple to execute as a gunfight is needlessly confusing, with both sides wearing black masks, their voices obscured by the ear-bleedingly loud gunfire and the constant cutting from side to side serving only as a serious distraction. The action scenes take the term 'gratuitous' to dumb new levels (where it's spelt G-R-A-T-O-O-I-T-U-S), and are mostly lifted wholesale from the bestselling movie guide, Undemanding Thrillers For Morons: Volume 1. Dialogue is unapologetically blue from the start (there's something grossly offensive about white people calling other white people 'nigger') and is shouted at such volume, you half expect Brick from Anchorman to wander on set and scream "I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!" It's as if director Wayne Kramer was looking to combine Rodriguez levels of stylish violence with elements of Jon Singleton-esque drama, but you get the feeling that the most 'urban' anyone involved with this picture has ever been is that one time they walked through a back alley at night to get their Starbucks. And it was raining!

Before the night is through, our pale-faced Soviet danger-magnet faces up to all kinds of street-based terror - junkie-filled crack dens, ludicrously bling pimps, sinister paedophiles - y'know, the kind of terror which only the most hackneyed of screenplays could throw up. You can picture the writers now, rubbing their hands together and congratulating themselves on being so dark and brooding, when in reality, it takes nothing more than a cursory flick through the morning red tops to find something more unsettling. Running Scared is a hotbed of stupidity, and it's evident throughout the entire picture - characters make bafflingly dangerous decisions for little or no reason, plot points are revealed and resolved within minutes ("There's a mole!" BANG! "He's dead!") and it wears its 18 certificate proudly like a badge of idiocy.

Running Scared almost got two stars out of sheer bloody-mindedness and unintentional moments of hilarity, but manages to shoot itself in the foot at the last hurdle by spectacularly failing to keep up the tone it has tried to sustain for its entire duration. (If I haven't already convinced you that your life is better off without this movie, then beware the spoilers ahead). Despite seeming like something of a badass thus far, Walker's character turns out to be an undercover cop all along, and as if this wasn't enough, his family fake his death at the end, ending the movie on a freeze-frame with Joey jovially roughhousing with his boy and his newly-adopted son, Oleg. What dumbass test audience asked for this ending? You'd think a film so determined to make us wince at every available opportunity would have the balls to have a downbeat finale, but no. Apparently the idea that Paul Walker isn't an all-American hero is too much for us to handle. Being shot in the dick is fine, but not this.

If Running Scared was a person, it would be the kind of person that confidently orders a steak 'bloody as hell' then when it arrives, sits there poking at it, too scared to actually eat it but proud that they ordered it nonetheless. If you're going to go all out and go for the guns 'n' gore approach, then by Christ you'd better be good at it, because if you aren't, then you end up making a parody of what you were trying to achieve. That's exactly what Running Scared is, a joke of a film. So, the Spinal Tap of action movies? If only it could count as high as eleven.

More:  Action  Thriller  Stinkers
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