Running Scared — movie review
Posted on June 11, 2006 by Kris Nelson
Who woulda thunk? Who woulda thunk Running Scared would be such a fun rush. When Chris first asked me to watch it with him, I just blinked at him thinking he meant the Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal movie with the same title, except in my mind it was the Gregory Hines/Baryshnikov movie and I was pretty much laughing at this point. I hate to disappoint you, but we are talking about the latest endeavor from writer/director Wayne Kramer. Now to be honest, Chris and I didn’t care for Kramer’s The Cooler much, which I actually often mistake for Hard Eight, so bam! there’s one strike against it. Second strike: Paul Walker is the lead. Third strike: a 12-year-old kid is co-star. But hold on a minute.. if you look beyond the Fast and the Furious shenanigans and basically every single movie he’s been in, Paul Walker is a decent actor and the 12-year-old kid is rising star Cameron Bright. So okay, we gave it a go.
We’re led into this morbid politically incorrect fairy-terror-tale filled with racial slurs, full-frontal nudity, piles upon piles of expletives, glow-in-the-dark hockey puck torture, strippers, pimps, and pedophilia. It’s great; we’re in Jersey! The opening scene shoots a cop in the crotch, shotgun blasts carry a guy across the room (slo-mo no less), and derogatory terms locked in a vault since the 80s come tumbling out in a drug bust gone berserk. This scene takes place in a cramped little hardwood floor hotel room with a dozen beefy guys falling over and onto each other once the bullets begin to fly. You wonder “should Paul Walker maybe enroll in a yoga class?” but the fact is that he thoroughly enjoys and seeks out such caffeinated roles. A self proclaimed energy actor, he is perfect for the role as the aptly named Joey Gazelle who not only runs, but threatens, thrashes, car chases, and still has time to fondle his wife in the laundry room and impersonate Marky Mark. He also lets loose a lot of full-lung from-the-diaphragm brays that hurts your throat just listening to them. I have to admit that the movie probably lost its draw because Walker is in it, due to his filmographic track record, so he simultaneously helps and hurts the film. But Kramer seems to be an “art for art’s sake” type of movie guy, so I’m sure the box office was secondary potatoes to him.
This leads me to Cameron Bright, who I think is going to be a very big deal and in most ways, already is. With seven blockbuster high-budget movies under his belt (god bless his agent), with the upcoming X-Men 3 his eighth, this kid with the incredible piercing blue eyes and permanently pursed lips is probably going to be the reason why people rent Running Scared in the future. He plays Oleg Yugorsky, neighbor to the Gazelles, with a horrendous history of physical and psychological abuse from his John Wayne revering Russian father. In one of the only “touching” father and son scenes we are allowed to witness, Oleg is lectured on a sin of omission tome of wisdom where his father explains how he was given a film reel of a John Wayne movie with a clipped ending where the Duke lives on. This is important to remember, in case you choose to remember Mr. Yugorsky, as the tipping point of his shock and awe lifestyle gone domestic.
At times you may even feel sorry for this seemingly sadistic bastard as other characters reveal his altruistic side and you realize he is just another man fleeing from the disappointment of other people’s dishonesty and his own idealistic ideas of attaining justice and individualism. This is important to remember because ultimately children learn from imitation, thus establishing the paternal characteristics, you shouldn’t be surprised at the cojones on little Oleg as he scurries through town incessantly hunted by opportunists. His night begins with stealing a gun (the aforementioned gun that shot a cop in the crotch) from Gazelle’s basement, shooting his father, abating a junkie bum with shrouded features, rescuing and then being rescued by a “hooker with a heart of gold” from a Malcolm McDowell look-alike homicidal pimp, finding the gun, losing the gun, and escaping eminent death at least a dozen times!
The most disturbing sequence involves a married couple whose pastimes include building credit at FAO Schwartz, trolling ice cream parlors, oh and abducting and hacking up children. So you can plainly see that the main character “running scared” is most likely Oleg and not Gazelle, who is actually more frustrated than frightened. He has to trace Oleg’s steps to retrieve the hot gun before his big mob boss tracks him down. At least he gets to do that in a shiny maroon ’69 Mustang Mach 1 convertible.
Running Scared is a ride chock full of crazy angles and “why the heck is the camera shaking now” camera shakes that meld current trends while honoring the classically designed shots Wayne Kramer wets his pants for. Be appreciative people; those aren’t run-of-the-mill CG effects, but actual planning, skill and craft that makes these shots interesting. For example, in a scene where a bullet shoots through the wall to the Gazelle family dinner, they strung a camera on a wire slide from house to house and had Paul Walker’s brother sit in as the camera pulls back to reveal Gazelle standing in the neighbor’s kitchen recreating the scene in his head. Sure they could’ve done it with a computer and sure it looks just like they did it with a computer, but they didn’t, so there. So to sum up, I know that they’ll be side by side in the video stores and they may share similarly terrible dvd cover art, but unless the deleted scenes reveal Billy Crystal getting a hockey puck to the face, I don’t think the Hines/Crystal Running Scared even compares.
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