"A Brutal Display of Disconnected Ideas"
A few parts of this very gritty crime thriller, RUNNING SCARED, are brilliantly done, but the rest of it is a foul mess. In fact, several scenes are so silly and abhorrent that only a mentally unbalanced, spiritually challenged person could recommend this movie to anyone.
RUNNING SCARED begins with a brutal gunfight when another gang steals money from a drug gang in New Jersey. The leader of the heist escapes, but the rest of his gang are killed. Much to Tommy, the drug gang leader, and his crew’s, chagrin, they discover that the dead thieves all have police badges.
As usual, Tommy orders Joey, played by Paul Walker of EIGHT BELOW, to throw away the guns they used to kill the crooked cops. Little does he know, however, that Joey keeps all the gang’s hot guns in a secret compartment in his basement. Joey’s 10-year-old son, Nicky, and Oleg, Nicky’s little Russian American friend, see Joey stash the new guns.
Later at dinner, Joey, Nicky and Joey’s wife, Teresa, hear Oleg take potshots at his mean Russian stepfather. One of the shots barely misses Joey’s head in the next house.
Joey rushes next door to find the stepfather wounded in the shoulder and Oleg gone. Of course, Oleg used one of the guns that Joey’s gang used on the crooked cops. Taking his son Nicky along, Joey goes in search of Oleg to get back the gun before the police get it.
What ensues is a very violent, foul-mouthed search for Oleg and/or the gun. A series of twists and turns has Joey running all around town during the night. Complicating matters is the fact that little Oleg’s stepfather is the disgraced son of the local Russian gang leader, who thinks Joey tried to kill his son so that Joey could take over the son’s meth lab. Another complication occurs when Oleg, trying to escape his angry stepfather, runs into a married couple who have set up one of the rooms in their fancy apartment into a child pornography studio.
The violent twists and turns in this story are just too much. If that weren’t enough of a problem, some final twists during the climax transform Joey into a good guy with a secret moral agenda. This plot twist comes way too late to generate much sympathy for Joey. Joey, however, seems to share the lead role in the movie with Oleg. In fact, during the end credit sequence, Oleg takes center stage when the filmmakers use fairy-tale drawings of Oleg being menaced by all the movie’s evil characters in illustrations that seem like something out of OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens or LEMONY SNICKET’S AN UNFORTUNATE SERIES OF INCIDENTS. And, all this time I thought I was watching a gritty crime thriller!
RUNNING SCARED is also filled with more than the usual kind of graphic violence and very strong foul language. The “f” words come fast and furious in this crime thriller. Furthermore, the implied activities of the two child pornographers and pedophiles are over-the-top, as is an interrupted sex scene in the laundry room between Joey and his wife. The movie also contains images of full female nudity in a visit to a nude bar. Finally, because of the confused nature of the story, the movie’s worldview is a very strong pagan one. Although Joey’s secret motives turn out to be pure, the means he uses to carry these motives out, as well as his search for the gun, are pragmatic and morally relative, and often immoral or evil. Also, Joey’s wife becomes a murderous vigilante at one point in the story.
Artistically, RUNNING SCARED is a brutal bunch of often disconnected ideas in search of a coherent plot. Morally and spiritually, it’s a mishmash of half-baked personal motives, laced with lots of obscenity, vulgarity and ultra-violence. Someone in Hollywood should sit down with these types of crime fiction wannabes and pretenders and tell them that crime thrillers, hardboiled mysteries and film noir movies need to have a morally and/or spiritually uplifting premise, with, hopefully, positive role models as well, to be truly successful. Furthermore, piling on more graphic violence, more brutality, more quirky and “edgy” material, and more vulgar content will not save your movie from artistic oblivion, no matter how many secular critics you can get to wax eloquently and mindlessly about your material in their reviews.
(PaPaPa, B, LLL, VVV, SSS, NNN, A, DD, MMM) Very strong pagan worldview with cruel fathers and a problematic adult protagonist who is a father and a low-level gangster for an Italian mob, and very little redemptive content, though, at the end, the adult protagonist turns out to be a man with a secret motive that is good (this is not displayed in the rest of the story, however); at least 363 mostly strong obscenities, 15 strong profanities, five light profanities, and a couple scenes with toilets; very strong, excessive violence includes two brutal gunfights, man shot directly in the crotch on purpose, man hit in face several times with hockey puck and face lies bleeding in pool of blood, man bites off another man's ear, several point black shootings, one man's head appears half blown off very briefly, pimp slams prostitute's head into car light, fight with torch leaves one man's leg on fire and other man refuses to put out fire out unless man gives up some information, 10-year-old child steals gun and tries to kill his mean stepfather, character commits suicide, explosion, images of bloody clothes, etc.; very strong accumulative sexual content contains strongly suggestive foreplay between married couple as man takes off her underpants, married couple starts to have intercourse but gets interrupted, obscured pornographic program on TV shown briefly, implied pedophilia and child pornography run by sick married couple who are shot dead in an act of vigilante justice, implied prostitution and pimping by two minor characters, and visit to nude bar where dancing nude women seem completely naked; very strong suggestion of full female nudity in visit to nude bar, upper female nudity, brief rear male nudity during briefly simulated intercourse and during porn video on TV, and upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking, man smokes crack or meth, mention of man's personal meth lab business, and corrupt cops pull a heist on two drug gangs (one Italian American and one African American) counting money and testing illegal drugs; and, police corruption, gangsters, poker game, extortion, and vigilante murder against pedophile couple shooting child pornography.
In RUNNING SCARED, a brutal crime thriller, Joey, a low-level mobster, must retrieve a gun that was used in a fight between his gang and some corrupt cops wearing masks. Oleg, the playmate of Joey's son Nicky, used the gun in an unsuccessful attempt to kill his mean stepfather, but has disappeared with the gun. What ensues is a very violent, foul-mouthed search for Oleg and the gun. A series of twists and turns has Joey running around town during the night, sometimes with Nicky or Oleg in tow. It ends in a bloody gunfight with Russian mobsters connected to Oleg's stepfather.
RUNNING SCARED is a brutal bunch of disconnected ideas in search of a coherent plot. Morally and spiritually, it's a mishmash of half-baked personal motives, filled with abundant obscenity, vulgarity and ultra-violence. The movie also contains a very strong accumulation of sexual content. One scene set in a nude bar has extensive female nudity. RUNNING SCARED is an abhorrent mess, in more ways than one. The actors are not well served by the messy script, which contains some laughable dialogue and situations, not to mention all the "f" words.