Inside Pulse DVD Review – Running Scared

DVD available at Amazon.com

Writer and Director:

Wayne Kramer

Cast:

Paul Walker……….Joey Gazelle
Cameron Bright……….Oleg Yugorsky
Vera Farmiga……….Teresa Gazelle
Chazz Palminteri……….Detective Rydell
Johnny Messner……….Tommy “Tombs” Perello
Michael Cudlitz……….Sal “Gummy Bear” Franzone
Alex Neuberger………Nicky Gazelle
Ivana Milicevic……….Mila Yugorsky

New Line Cinema presents Running Scared. Running time: 122 minutes. Rated R (for pervasive strong brutal violence and language, sexuality and drug content). Released on DVD: June 6, 2006.

The movie:

Running Scared is a throwback to a generation where hard-boiled crime novels and pictures were all the rage. Stories of hard men and loose women. Of a cynical world inhabited by jagged characters. Low rent gangsters, dirty cops, and the type. Where people curse and resort to acts of violence, because it’s an easy solution.

The movie stars Paul Walker. You don’t have to worry about his acting ability since he never slows down to act. Always on the move, he simply behaves to the changing momentum of the story. The opening sequence has him and a kid exiting a diner. Blood is soaking through the kid’s shirt. Making a quick getaway, Walker loses control of the car and crashes. The movie flashes back 18 hours before the accident to a botched drug deal. A shoot ’em up of whiz bang ferocity leaves a derelict apartment littered with the bodies of crooked cops and drug dealers. As the gun smoke clears the only two standing are Joey Gazelle (Walker) and a guy who orders him to take the guns and lose them.

Before the next of kin can be identified, and the bodies counted, the next scene has already started. Writer-director Wayne Kramer has his work cut out for him as the break-neck velocity leaves little time for character development. This either helps Paul Walker or it doesn’t. The viewer must be able to buy into his character’s dilemma. Constantly on edge for much of the two hour run time, Walker handles one bad thing after another rather well. He’s convincing as Joey Gazelle, a family man and mob underling, whose life is turned upside down when he chooses not to follow his boss’ orders.

Gazelle hides the guns in his basement. This secret stash, along with other arsenal in Ziploc baggies, is safely tucked away. Think of it as an insurance policy, in case his relationship with the mob ends acrimoniously.

The basement is also a place where his son Nicky (Alex Neuberger) and best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright), the kid from next door, like to play field hockey. Oleg prefers playing at Nicky’s house because his stepfather Anzor (Karel Roden) is too much of an eccentric. Anzor grew up in Russia idolizing John Wayne. He watched The Cowboys over and over again, close to 1000 times. Only it was a 10-minute version of the film. When he came to America and saw it complete on TV, he was saddened to see “The Duke” get shot. John Wayne was his hero. To see him that way was a painful experience. So traumatic, he took his pain out on his wife and stepson. Growing tired of the abuse and his John Wayne rants, Oleg steals a gun from next door and shoots him.

Of all the guns Oleg could have picked he takes the revolver Joey’s boss used to kill a cop only a few hours ago. Following the shooting, he flees the scene. Kramer uses the gun as a McGuffin – an object that drives the story – to set in motion a chain of events that have dire results.

The gun’s disappearance is bad. Not only does Joey have to recover the slugs discharged from the revolver, he and his son scamper all over town looking for Oleg. A buck gets ten when they find him they’ll find the gun in his possession. If only it were that easy. Father and son must venture into a darkness more than night. Way past the point of no return and into a nihilistic underworld.

The escapade is nothing like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. It has some semblance of a fairy tale, nonetheless. A very “Grimm” tale. The narrative moves aimlessly from one moment to the next, with neither rhyme nor reason. With each fleeting moment we get scenes involving a blowtorch, the Russian mob, a hockey puck to the face, and pedophiles that keep body bags where clothes should hang.

More could be given of the plot but time is running out. The action is intense. The violence is excessive but justified. Like when actress Vera Farmiga, Joey’s wife, becomes an active participant. Brandishing an automatic pistol she makes some clever kills, snuffing out the perverted vermin.

Her actions may be borderline sociopathic, but she’s a saint compared to the gun-wielding pimp, dirty cops and gangsters that ride roughshod in supporting roles. Smartly, Wayne Kramer gives his secondary characters a shot at the big time. Upstage the name on the marquee and chew the scenery. Soliloquies, unabashed uses of expletives, whatever to make a point.

The plot of Running Scared has flaws. The ending is a bit of a disappointment compared to the rest of the flick, particularly a revelation that makes the quest to find the revolver a moot point. The gun may be the McGuffin and Paul Walker the star, but the action is hard-boiled to the max and there’s more than enough bloodshed to keep you glued.

Score: 7.5/10

The DVD:

THE VIDEO
(Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen)

The image is downright flawless. The movie looks better at home than it did in theaters. Clean transfer with a rainbow of colors popping out. Pay attention to the use of cyan filters, reds and blacks. The hockey rink scene, which is shot mostly using black light, is crisp. Even the nighttime scenes have their own sense of stylishness. In the simplest terms, this transfer is awesome.

Score: 10/10

THE AUDIO
(English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS-ES 6.1)

Witnessing the bloodshed unfolding on screen, your ears may bleed with the stunning DTS mix. The 5.1 track is a fine substitute for those who don’t have DTS capability. With 6.1 the sound is richer, providing a more rounded listening experience. The track adequately handles the dialogue, ambient noises, bullet-strewn sound effects and Mark Isham’s haunting score. Everything is rousing and both mixes are excellent. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Score: 10/10

SPECIAL FEATURES: Wayne Kramer on the mic.

There aren’t many extras on the DVD, but quality outweighs quantity in my book.

The first is a feature-length audio commentary by writer-director Wayne Kramer. There is a bit of humility to his commentary. Amusing and informative, Kramer proves he is a film school dweeb by acknowledging the earlier works of several actors. Oleg’s stepfather was the villain in 15 Minutes. Joey Gazelle’s wife was also in that picture. Weird coincidence. When he isn’t trying to impress us with his wealth of film trivia, he offers tidbits about the making of Running Scared. He covers the story, his purpose of creating such a violent movie, and what it was like working with Walker, that creepy-looking kid Cameron Bright, and various members of the crew.

Running Scared: Through the Looking Glass is a 19-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. 19 minutes is not nearly enough time to explore the making of such an intense movie. Snippets from interviews are intercut with scenes from the finished film and footage taken during production. Kramer and Walker are the most vocal participants, but Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Cameron Bright and Johnny Messner all give their two cents worth. Walker was so pumped for the role of Joey Gazelle, that he would lay awake at night just thinking of stuff he would be doing the next day on the set. The latter moments of the feature are devoted to Kramer and co. talking about their favorite sequences. There’s no right or wrong answer, but the hockey rink shootout illuminated with black light is something special.

And about the hockey rink shootout, that scene as well as the botched drug deal skirmish was two of the many hand-drawn storyboards by Kramer. Selecting either shootout will allow you go compare the sketches to the finished product. The live-action scene plays directly above the storyboards.

Also included is the film’s theatrical trailer, sneak peeks for other New Line Cinema home releases, and a mini graphic novel based on a sequence in the film. Those with a DVD-ROM drive can access a script-to-screen feature as well.

Score: 6/10

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Running Scared
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7.5
THE VIDEO

10
THE AUDIO

10
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)