Running Scared Critique


Paul Walker as Joey Gazelle
Cameron Bright as Oleg Yugorsky
Vera Farmiga as Teresa Gazelle
Karel Roden as Anzor Yugorsky
Chazz Palminteri as Detective Rydell
Johnny Messner as Tommy “Tombs” Perello
Michael Cudlitz as Sal “Gummy Bear” Franzone
Alex Neuberger as Nicky Gazelle
Ivana Milicevic as Mila Yugorsky
John Noble as Ivan Yugorsky
David Warshofsky as Pimp Lester
Bruce Altman as Dez
Idalis DeLeon as Divina
James Lambert as Officer Ralph McCready
Julian Littman as Pharmacist
Elizabeth Mitchell as Edele
Arthur J. Nascarella as Frankie Perello
Clara Perez as Conchita

“Running Scared” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It’s so bad on so many levels that it’s hard to capture in words.

Joey Gazelle is an enforcer for an Italian mobster. When a drug deal goes bad and some crooked cops are killed, Joey is given the gun that were used to kill the cops and is told to dispose of them. He takes the gun home and hides it in his basement. However, his son’s young friend Oleg Yugorsky finds the gun and sneaks it home with him.

After a fight with his psychotic, abusive father, Oleg shoots him with the gun and goes on the run. Realizing that the gun could implicate him in the murder of the cops, Joey frantically searches the town for Oleg. To further complicate matters, Oleg’s father was a member of a rival Russian gang. Thus begins an intense, violent chase through the underworld of the city to find Oleg and the gun first.

“Running Scared” is rated R for pervasive strong brutal violence and language, sexuality and drug content.

What Worked:
“Running Scared” is a good-looking film. It has dark, moody sets. It has a beautiful cast of heroes and a scary looking cast of villains. The cinematography is also well done.

I can’t say much about the cast. Paul Walker is pretty good at expressing rage and frustration in the film. The rest of the cast is much better in other films they appear in.

What Didn’t Work:
This is easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I can only think of three movies that I ever wanted to walk out of a theater on and this was one of them. “Running Scared” should be declared a weapon of mass destruction due to the sheer enormity of suckage it will be unleashing upon theaters across the United States. If every action has an equal opposite reaction, this is New Line’s reaction to “The Lord of the Rings”. It’s hard for me to settle on something to begin with, so I’m just going to randomly throw out all the things that didn’t work for me with this film.

– Paul Walker and Vera Farmiga have terrible Brooklyn accents. It gets worse for Walker when you throw in the stereotypical Italian mobster angle. Walker even says, “You gonna whack me?” at one point.

– Once Joey starts following Oleg, it reminded me of one of those Family Circus cartoons where you follow the trail of Billy as he wanders around the neighborhood. In this case it’s following Oleg around the Hood. You see Oleg encounter the abusive father. Oleg encounters the druggie. Oleg encounters the drug dealer. Oleg meets the pimp and ho. Oleg meets the cops. Oleg meets the crooked cops. Oleg meets the child abductor / child pornographer / child molester / child murderer. Oleg really needs to move out of his crappy neighborhood.

– “Running Scared” gleefully uses violence and abuse against children as entertainment. The prime example of this is a scene where Oleg is abducted along with two other kids and taken to a Neverland Ranch-type apartment where a creepy couple rapes and tortures children while videotaping them. As Oleg wanders around the apartment he sees instruments of torture lying around the cheerful setting. It’s obvious the filmmakers are wanting us to giggle at the absurdity of it. However, I hardly thought it was an appropriate subject for humor. Throw in Paul Walker pointing a gun at a screaming baby, numerous characters pointing a gun at Oleg’s head, the pimp repeatedly sticking a knife to Oleg’s neck, and other abuses and you see quite a pattern emerging. It’s not good to be a kid in this film.

– Oleg’s father, who is one of the main bad guys, is obsessed with John Wayne. He goes on and on and on about the Duke. He even has a tattoo on his back of him. It gets to the point where it’s ridiculous and you start to wonder if maybe that’s what the filmmakers intended. However, they also seem to treat it so seriously that you can’t tell if they’re joking. Here’s a spoiler for you, so if you still want to see this movie for some reason, skip ahead. When the guy is finally killed, he’s actually shot in the back through Wayne’s eyes in the tattoo. If they were serious, it was too melodramatic to work. If they were joking, it was kind of stupid. This had to have been one of the most absurd character quirks of a villain that I’ve ever seen.

– “Running Scared” seemed a little too desperate to include some sex in this film. Less than 5 minutes after killing a bunch of mobsters and cops, Paul Walker runs home and performs oral sex on his wife while she sits on the washing machine. It was pretty stupid and certainly didn’t seem in character for Joey considering what had just happened to him. Throw in the obligatory strip club scene and you see how the film tries to titillate without doing anything for the story.

– This is another spoiler, so skip ahead if you don’t want to read it. At the end as Paul lays down dying from a gunshot wound, he’s screaming and crying and carrying on in a lot of pain. His son then runs up with these words of heartfelt compassion: “We’re still going to the hockey game Friday night, right dad?” His wife follows up with: “Yes, we are! We’re gonna kick their f*****g a***s!!!” It had to have been some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever seen in a death scene.

– Here’s yet another spoiler that has to be addressed. Skip ahead if you don’t want to read it. At the end they have twist upon twist, the main one being the fact that Walker’s character was an undercover cop the entire time. However, if you look back at the rest of the film, his behavior is inconsistent with that of an undercover cop. He threatens a woman and a baby with a gun. He hides a gun from a mob hit in his basement rather than with his fellow police. He takes Oleg, a child, into a dangerous mob meeting that ends in a shootout. It just goes on and on. Nothing he did is consistent with the behavior of someone trying to protect and serve the public. As part of that, Walker’s character fakes his own death at the end and his wife attends his fake funeral. She takes the flag from his casket and throws it in her car. When she sees him again alive and well, she tosses the flag at him. Walker then proceeds to hit his son over the head with the flag then toss it on the ground. Not very respectful, eh?

– The film features numerous completely pointless effects shots where action scenes are rewound in slow motion. You see the action repeated over and over. It’s like the filmmakers are saying, “Did you miss it the first time? Well here, let me spend a million dollars on an effects sequence so I can rewind it and show you again.” It’s like they think the audience is too stupid to figure out what just happened on their own. But it does look cool!

– Worst of all, this is a 2-hour movie. It could have easily been 45 minutes shorter.

I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point. The movie had a weak story, bad dialogue, and bad acting. It was to the point that it was more fun to watch the movie and make fun of it rather than try to take it as any other form of entertainment. I think the filmmakers were trying to be tongue in cheek at many points, but it was completely unsuccessful.

The Bottom Line:
“Running Scared” is just a terrible film. It tries to be funny and it isn’t. It tries to be serious and it’s inadvertently funny. The action is too far over the top and there are gaping holes in the plot. I would only see “Running Scared” if I was a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” fan looking for easy targets.