Summer movies are all about exciting action, visceral thrills, bitter sweet romances and enough time for the audience to lose themselves for a couple hours. This is the time for action movies, over-the-top insanity and even some of those cheeky romantic comedies. Often times, we are bombarded with the endless sequels to franchises that never appear to end, remakes of movies that don’t need to be crafted with the technology of today and, of course, the superhero genre that has taken the world by storm.
For myself, I like movies that are excessive. I love watching a film that features excessive violence, pervasive language and is certainly not for the faint of heart for conventional audiences. These are the movies that excite me and one notable example is a movie that showcases some gripping moments and a personal favorite of the late Paul Walker. Obviously, I’m not talking about The Fast and The Furious franchise. No, no I’m here to tell you about Running Scared and it’s not the 1986 film. This is the 2006 action thriller starring Paul Walker in a riveting role about a man running scared to find a missing gun. It has all the right ingredients; a great cast, a fast-paced story, brutal in-your-face action, and enough language that would put a smile on Quentin Tarantino’s face. Running Scared is a combined package and a winning one.
Running Scared literally opens in chaos where we see Joey (Paul Walker) driving crazily in his Mustang trying to find his way home. A young boy is with him named Oleg (Cameron Bright) and has blood all over his shirt. We get the sense very quickly that something terrible has happened and no less than eighteen hours ago is where Joey’s trouble begins. After a drug goes awry after being stormed by corrupt cops who commit robbery, Joey and his partners (part of a mob crime family) engage in a violent shootout. Two of the corrupt cops are killed but unbeknownst to Joey and his partners, they are indeed cops!
Tommy (Johnny Messner) is a New Jersey mobster who orders Joey to lose the gun and not to screw up. The gun used to burn that dirty corrupt cop is now a hot piece and the third corrupt cop named Rydell (Chazz Palminteri) who got away will be looking for that piece in order to bust the mobsters. Joey hides the gun in the basement of his home. He has a ten-year-old son (don’t forget to say ten and half) named Nicky (Alex Neuberger) and his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) don’t fully realize the thing that happened earlier in the day. During dinner, a gunshot is heard from next door where Oleg lives. Oleg and Nicky are good friends and it’s revealed that Anzor (Karl Roden), the step-father to Oleg has been shot. Joey, enraged at what has happened runs over to figure what is going on and finds a wounded Anzor who informs Joey that Oleg shot him and describes the gun he used. Strangely, the gun that Anzor describes sounds quite similar to the one that Joey was ordered to get rid of.
The movie then follows Joey’s crusade to find Oleg, who’s now missing, and that missing gun. The movie is more or less, a violent and chaotic version of Alice in Wonderland. We follow the adventures of Oleg who runs into a series of unique characters, something that Tarantino would not shy away from. Among the people he meets, Oleg encounters a prostitute who engages in a fight with her pimp named Lester (David Warshofsky), a white pimp who certainly has a way with words. Perhaps not as memorable as Gary Oldman’s pimp performance in True Romance but it’s still a fun watch.
If there’s anything certain about Running Scared it’s that it appears to be straightforward but you may be fooled especially when Oleg meets two strangers when in hiding. These turn out to be Edele (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Dez (Bruce Altman); two creepy people who have a sick way of loving “their” children. This sequence in particular turns the movie in an entirely new direction and the feeling we are left is the same exact look that Teresa displays once she learns the gravity of the situation when Oleg calls her for help. As the film progresses, the violence gets more brutal and the people we get to meet are certainly unique in this world of nightcrawlers.
Running Scared is written and directed by Wayne Kramer (best known for The Cooler) and this movie has a dramatic sense of flair, which is putting it lightly. From the wonky and often blinding style of editing, a fun looking hockey rink that plays a crucial role and even the colorful language in the script; Running Scared may not look like a typical action thriller but it has this high energy about it that makes the movie so darn entertaining. I love watching Paul Walker running all over town and losing his mind when everything seems to be falling apart. Although it would be difficult to say that Walker is portraying a character, it appears that he’s just reacting to what is unfolding in front of him. I can’t discredit Walker though as this is my favorite performance of his even over the insanity that has become The Fast and The Furious saga.
Getting back to that creep couple Edele and Dez, if you observe closely, you’ll notice that in the kitchen and living room there are no corners. This makes the room in particular feel somewhat uneasy. As we watch Teresa run through the apartment trying to find Oleg, we too are uncertain of his fate and looking at the apartment makes us feel worried too. It’s an odd-looking design but one that works in getting our emotions on the rise.
What’s your favorite summer movie?
Paul Walker displayed an exciting and often infectious amount of energy in the movies he starred in. From racing cars and dodging bullets in The Fast and The Furious, to running from a deranged trucker in Joy Ride and caring for his premature daughter in Hours, Paul Walker had that presence on the screen to just watch him and we miss seeing him. If you haven’t seen nor heard of Running Scared don’t feel bad. It underperformed at the box office which did leave Walker disheartened but, according to the production notes, Quentin Tarantino left a voicemail for Walker praising the movie and his performance!
Running Scared may not be for everyone, but I love its high energy, brutal and savage violence and, as always, the colorful language that brings a smile to my face. It may have been released in January of 2006, but Running Scared just feels like a perfect summer movie. The plot is simple enough although that gun does seem somewhat like a MacGuffin, much like the briefcase seen in Pulp Fiction. The casting is wonderful and the action pulls no punches.
In a time when sequels and superhero movies are the summer blockbusters, it often feels good to venture back to the simpler times. Of course, we have these types of movies every now and then, and if Running Scared is one that you haven’t seen yet or perhaps in a while, then see it. If you like Paul Walker, then you’ll enjoy seeing him in this gritty action movie that’ll grip you right from the start. It’s an absolute blast and never lets up!