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After a drug-op gone bad, Joey Gazelle is put in charge of disposing the gun that shot a dirty cop....
Running Scared is a film that will not make you feel warm inside when the credits begin to roll, although they are some very, very cool end credits. No, pretty much the entirety of the film will make you wince, cringe, and probably make you feel cold slightly disgusted, but you know what? It is an experience, a ride that should be at least ridden once.
Wayne Kramer, who had previously directed The Cooler, follows that film up with this bleak, battered clump of hair thatís clogging your bathroom sink. This movie is rough. Of course this is Kramerís intention. He uses Tony Scott-style editing and color correction to helm a much lower budget version of overly stylized action films. Fortunately Kramer, who also penned the screenplay, actually has a story to tell, and itís the story that takes center stage over any bullets being fired.
The film begins with Paul Walkerís character Joey Gazelle driving in a car with a young boy, Oleg Yugorsky. Oleg has a bloodstain on his stomach, insinuating heís been shot and Joey is frenetically trying to take him where he can be treated. The film then flashes back and tells the story leading up to this moment. Joey is a small time Mafioso whoís attending a drug deal with his boss. Masked men show up to steal both the drugs and the money. A shoot-out ensues and by the time the dust settles, itís discovered the masked men were dirty police officers. Joeyís boss gives him the murder weapon to get rid of. Joey goes home and hides the gun in his basement, unknowing that his son and his friend Oleg see him hide it. Joey, his wife and their son are alarmed when a gunshot is heard from next door, the residence of Oleg. Joey runs over to the house to find Olegís dad wounded from a bullet from the gun Joey had hidden. Oleg has fled the house, so Joey has to track him down and retrieve the gun before the mafia find out heís lost it, or the dirty cops find it.
Oleg finds himself in a sinister area and encounters a series of ghoulish characters. The best part of the film is Olegís adventures. Heís in his own fairytale, but itís a hard R-rated fairytale. The characters he comes into contact with along his journey are nightmarish, caricatures of popular characters from fairytale lore. There is an abusive pimp who is the Mad Hatter after a few years of hard substance abuse. In one of the most disturbing scenes in the movie Oleg accidentally gets himself kidnapped by a married couple that are pedophile serial killers. Kramer takes the wind out of you and keeps your eyes bulging, staring at the screen. By the time the end of the scene comes, all you can do is let out a deep exhale.
So as Oleg is having the worst night of his life, Joeyís isnít going swell either. Heís not a likeable character, and Walkerís performance and wonky accent donít add anything to the film either. The fact that heís constantly shouting doesnít help any, most of his dialogue canít be quoted in this review, and youíre ears eventually become numb to the constant barrage of foul language. Thereís one interesting scene that involves hockey pucks being slapped at oneís face as a torture device that further proves what kind of film Kramer is making here.
Kramer throws everything at the wall, whether it sticks, slides down, or goes through the wall entirely. The film has many flaws, but when all is said and done the film had a lasting impact on me. I admired Kramerís ability to meld various elements; especially the way he paces some of the filmís most suspenseful scenes, as well as his ambition to make this volatile fairy tale. The action scenes wonít blow your mind, nor will the acting, but there is something about this film that sticks with me. Maybe itís just that scab that wonít heal, or maybe itís that cool scar that chicks dig.