Running Scared
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Wayne Kramer
with Paul Walker, Vera Farmiga, Cameron Bright, Alex Neuberger, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner, Michael Cudlitz, Karel Roden, Ivana Milicevic, Bruce Altman, John Noble, David Warshofsky
release UK 6.Jan.06, US 24.Feb.06
06/US New Line 2h02

Gimme some lovin: Farmiga and Walker

walker farmiga palminteri

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Running Scared Kramer shifts from the drama of The Cooler to all-out action here, but he makes the same mistakes as a filmmaker. Despite strong performances and an intriguing idea, it's clumsily overwritten, straining badly to be a complex thriller but only generating small moments of believability.

Joey (Walker) works for a New Jersey crime family. When a drug deal goes gruesomely wrong, Joey's job is to get rid of an incriminating gun. But his son Nicky (Neuberger) sees the hiding place. As does Nicky's best friend Oleg (Bright), who steals it to shoot his violent stepdad (Roden). Suddenly it's the Italian versus the Russians. Stir in a tenacious cop (Palminteri) and Joey's tough wife (Farmiga) and it's going to be a long night as the gun passes from hand to hand.

Visually, the film is whizzy and tricky, with an extreme colour palette, swooping camera work and flashy editing. All of this perfectly matches the script's whizzy trickery, although it also exposes the story's flaws. The dialog is awash with cornball sermons and obvious moralising, while the plot relies on cliches, conveniences and coincidences, plus excessive gore and gratuitous nudity. No matter how showy Kramer gets as a director, we can see that there's nothing much to this film.

So it's up to the cast to engage us, and Walker is extremely watchable at the centre of the storm. He makes Joey both shady and sleazy, but clearly not evil, and his impossible task to get the gun before the cops or either mob find it is truly gripping. Farmiga and the boys are also especially strong, drawing us into their individual odysseys, even when the film takes some deranged side trips, such as the wacky/scary kiddie snuff porn interlude.

The main problem is that Kramer seems to have made up this script on the hoof as a kind of homage to The Sopranos and Todd Solondz, both of which, uncoincidentally, also come from New Jersey. Even as he manages to compose a startling, twisty, wrenching final sequence, the clunky storytelling undermines any real tension we might feel.

cert 18 themes, language, strong violence, nudity 20.Dec.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall