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"Running Scared" Movie Review

Paul Walker Sheds His Southern California Surfer Image with "Running Scared"

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Vera Farmiga and Paul Walker in "Running Scared."

© New Line Cinema
"Running Scared" is an unapologetic in-your-face thriller that’s sure to take those who are expecting a typical Paul Walker movie by surprise. Rated R with good reason, "Running Scared" is full of intensely graphic scenes of brutality that are actually difficult to sit through without reacting physically to what’s happening on the screen.

Walker stars as Joey Gazelle, a lower level mobster given the task of disposing of a gun that was used to kill a corrupt cop during a shoot-out. Instead of tossing out the easily recognizable weapon, Joey takes the gun home and hides it away in his basement. Unfortunately for Joey, his son’s best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) sees him stash the weapon and steals it to shoot his abusive Russian stepfather, Anzor (Karl Roden).

With the weapon now back in circulation and cops able to match the bullet from Anzor to the bullet recovered from the dead cop, Joey has to track down Oleg before either the cops or the mob find the missing gun.

Writer/director Wayne Kramer ("The Cooler") wanted audiences to interact with his film and if the preview screening I attended is any indication, Kramer got what he asked for. People in the audience yelled advice to characters during the movie and for once no one shushed them. “Running Scared” really demands that type of participation and the audience needs the release.

Just when you believe “Running Scared” has gone too far (the film’s pedophile scene quickly comes to mind) Kramer ups the ante, taking the audience on an almost uncomfortably intense journey that leaves you exhausted. Kramer wisely inserted enough downtime in between his action sequences so as not to take it over the top and scare away all but the diehard action fans.

Russian mobsters, mafia hit men, crooked cops, hookers, and pimps – “Running Scared” tosses in stereotypical caricatures of all the aforementioned yet for some reason it doesn’t matter that absolutely none of the supporting players are fleshed out. This isn’t an in-depth character piece and doesn’t pretend to be. What we need to know about the main characters is parceled out sparingly and there’s no legitimate reason to get to know the bit players who make up the film’s double-digit body count.

Kramer uses every camera angle and editing trick in the book to achieve a very specific hyperkinetic style that matches the script’s aggressive tone. Quick pans, rewinding scenes and playing them back from different angles, and swooping camera movements lend the movie a video game quality. The exaggerated characters and color palette also add to the video game-like tone of the production.

Walker turns in his best performance to date with "Running Scared." The star of "Fast and the Furious," "Into the Blue" and other assorted teen films, Walker uses this role to prove there’s more to him than just a pretty smile and piercing blue eyes. As Walker’s onscreen wife, Vera Farmiga is equally impressive. Walker and Farmiga have fantastic chemistry and their relationship comes across as natural and unforced. The youngest stars of the movie – Bright and Alex Neuberger – deliver credible performances in what had to be two very difficult roles.

I’m sure that awarding “Running Scared” a positive review will earn me more “you’re out of your mind, what were you thinking, are you sick” emails than I’ve received in response to all of my other reviews combined. I’m not condoning the violence of the film. I’m in no way saying the actions of the characters are justified or that women and children should ever be the targets of the repulsive, violent acts depicted in “Running Scared.” But for a movie in which nothing is held sacred, in which political correctness doesn’t exist, where pedophiles get what they deserve and all actions have consequences, “Running Scared” achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It takes the audience on a two hour frantic, frenetic, stomach-churning thrill ride and never, ever lets up.

GRADE: B+

"Running Scared" was directed by Wayne Kramer and is rated R for pervasive strong brutal violence and language, sexuality and drug content.

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