REVIEW: Running Scared (Wayne Kramer, 2006)

Joey Gazelle works for the mafia, but you won't see him working any big shifts. His job is to dispose of "hot pieces" - guns used to commit a crime. An unwanted night of gun fights and chases is ahead when one piece is stolen by the kid next door, played by the always blander-than-all-get-out Cameron Bright. Wayne Kramer writes and directs.

If there's one thing I learned about Kramer from watching his most acclaimed film, The Cooler, it's that he knows how to develop evocative characters. Shelly Kaplow, played by Alec Baldwin in The Cooler, tops my list of most loathed film villians due to not only Baldwin's excellent performance but also Kramer's articulate development. In Running Scared that same development exists, creating a hero out of a pretty unlikeable guy and a bad guy we love to hate out of what could have easily been a mafia stereotype.

Paul Walker. The filmmakers were well aware that he is not the most reputable guy to lead a film, especially a gritty, street action film, but saw huge potential in meeting him to play this role to perfection. Just like the film, he takes no prisoners and is unrestrained in his authentic portrayal of Joey. He was definitely a surprise, coming off projects like The Fast and the Furious and Into the Blue and delivering a true performance here.

Having decent ingredients does not a great work make, however.
Unfortunately for Kramer, who is not trying to be deep here, the boundaries pushed by Running Scared do not include the boundary between a boring film and an exciting one. While the film has some enticing viscerals scattered throughout, none of them piece together to form a recommendable moviegoing experience. In the vein of Tony Scott, the jerky camera and unwarranted editing still don't amount to much. Man on Fire did it well once, now let's leave it be.

This appears, some critics have said, as a step backward for the director. I think his heart was in the right place - he wanted to make a fun movie for a change of pace. The fruit of his labor may be stale, but it does not dissuade me from anticipating his next outing.