Slick and pacey, Running Scared will take you on a wild tour of the criminal underworld. And the unsavory characters that inhabit it. It starts furiously and then settles into this intense and suspenseful tempo full of twists. You simply don’t know where the story is going and there are several interesting subplots. One of the first things you’re going to notice is the creative camerawork that reminded me of another movie set in this world, Spun. The atmosphere is electrifying and thrilling with most of the movie taking place at night. One night, to be more precise.
I don’t know how I missed Running Scared back in a day. It looks and feels like all of my favorite movies back then. It smells of Tarantino with the whole one wild night with criminals thing. And he liked the movie, calling Paul Walker after the premiere and praising his performance. I have to agree with him although it was a bit strange to see Paul this edgy. Too bad Thomas Jane was too busy for this one, I think he would’ve been perfect as Joey. Chazz Palminteri and Vera Farmiga also gave convincing performances along with our two kids, Cameron Bright and Alex Neuberger.
This brings us to the issue of children in such an environment. And this might be a bit selfish of me, to want all of the characters to be adults so I don’t have to have any moral issues with them but here we are. Since two ten-year-olds are a main part of the story, Running Scared feels like a wicked little urban fairy tale. At times you can sense that the director and writer of this movie Wayne Kramer got carried away with the storytelling. I feel that a much shorter runtime and more streamlined storytelling would make this an explosive and engaging masterpiece.
Joey had one job and that was to get rid of a hot piece that his boss gave him. However, Joey just stashed it in his house not thinking about what havoc it could cause. And that’s exactly what’s about to happen as the most important eighteen hours in Joey’s life just began. He must find the gun or face the music. And the music is grim.
The characters we are going to meet in Running Scared feel well developed and realistic. Most of them have these little traits that make them feel more authentic. There are no good guys and bad guys, just people mixed up in all sorts of things. Some of them are really, really bad and some are even funny. Granted, I think we could’ve sacrificed a few of them to make the main story work better but what’s done is done. After all, with pacing as relentless as it is here, it’s hard to focus on the individual stories.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Running Scared check out Pawn Shop Chronicles, also starring Paul Walker. Also, you might take a look at Lucky Day, written and directed by Roger Avary. Both of them feature this over-the-top and stylish action set in the seedy world of gangsters and killers. If, however, we’re talking about kids caught up in bad situations, Besson’s Leon is the movie you want to check out.
Director: Wayne Kramer
Writer: Wayne Kramer
Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Chazz Palminteri, Vera Farmiga, Karel Roden, Johnny Messner, Ivana Milicevic
Fun Facts: All of the Russian characters are played by people who are not Russian.