Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Media 8 Entertainment’s “Running Scared” is that Formula 1 race driver who grabs the pole, roars off the starting line and leads for about half the race, then loses complete control of his ride, crashes in the guard rails and creaks to finish line on three wheels.


Paul Walker shears off his bountiful blonde locks and comatose acting style from the ‘Fast and the Furious’ flicks to play hardened mob goon Joey Gazelle.  A standard drug transaction goes horribly wrong when masked gunmen bust in stealing the booty and busting caps.  Joey and his boss, Tommy Perello, portrayed with convincing menace by the O.C.’s Johnny Messner, turn the tables on the would be assailants, wasting them all except one who manages to scurry away.  Uh oh, turns out the perpetrators are dirty cops.  Damn LAPD.  As they flee the scene, Tommy gives Joey the dirty guns used to waste the dirty cops and tells him, with much earnest, to lose the guns.  For various reasons Joey doesn’t lose those guns, and in a series of unlikely events, the gun that is used to kill the cops, get used by a neighbor kid to shoot his step dad.  Now to save his misbegotten life, Joey has just a few hours to find the kid, and the gun before the his mob, the Russian mob and the police mob find them.  By the way, the first six minutes of the movie are available online as free download if you want to see it for yourself. 

With they stylized opening and high energy, hyper-violent beginning the filmmakers prepare you for what looks to be film ride of the year.  And even though things slow down after the kinetic opening, the tension that Director Wayne Kramer (who also crafted the very well received ‘The Cooler’) has created is so thick through the first half the movie that you can cut it with a knife.  The overall look of the film, which has

has a gritty, cold, brutal hue, also lends itself quite well to Joey’s situation being completely out of his control.  Joey is in big, big trouble and the audience can feel it.  Add to that some wickedly presented gun violence, Vera Farmiga's big blue weepy eyes and, excessive reliance of the F word and a completely unnecessary scene that takes place in strip club which adds a host unnecessary breast and it’s looking like we got ourselves a winner


But somewhere along the line, the film completely loses it way.  I’m not sure exactly how these things happen, but with the seemingly unnecessary addition of peripheral pimps, prostitutes and pedophiles (check that alliteration bro) the movie goes into a direction that veers wildly off the course from where it seemed to be heading.  Do these guys write themselves into a corner they can’t get out of?  Does some obnoxious agent stomp around the set forcing script changes for their client?  Does the studio screen these things for crazed test audiences who demand stupid changes?  I wish I knew.  There is a laundry list of problems and inconsistencies in this flick, none of which I can give away because it would fall under the category of spoilers, and I won’t do that to you.  Though I do wonder, if you’re on the run various mobsters and your life hangs on a thread looking for a murder weapon used to kill cops, should you drag your 10-year-old son with you everywhere you go?  And then there’s the ending.  The resolution of which, at least for me, calls into question why the movie even exists in the first place.  Again, I won’t reveal it, but it’s similar to:  Well, if that’s the case then, why did he do… but that wouldn’t make sense because… but if so, then he shouldn’t have… 


Then there’s Paul Walker.  The question is can the boy actually act?  Well compared his work in fluff like ‘Into the Blue’ and ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ he’s freaking Marlon Brando.  Otherwise, he’s okay.  This is a movie I liked a lot more as the super stylized closing credits were rolling than I did the next morning.  The movie NEVER stops being entertaining, but when you start your career looking like Barry Sanders and you end your career being Lawrence Phillips (who?!  exactly) you have to be a little disappointed.


Bud’s Second:  This movie went from being sublime to being ridiculous in about 10 minutes time, maybe half or two-thirds of the way through.  It started strong, but deteriorated to the point that I was actually laughing at the movie at times that were supposed to be dramatic and suspenseful.  Plus, Paul Walker is hardly a good mobster, he’s just not grizzled or hard enough.  And the ending to the story invalidated the whole movie… I hate it when movies do that!  In spite of all the problems, if you like your mobster movies to raunchy and classless (and who doesn’t), you still go se this movie, because it is better than 90% of the dreck out there now.


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