Running Scared is filled with plenty of blood-splattering violence, profanity, sexual perversions, and whatever other deviant behavior you can think of. What it doesn't have is any cohesiveness or finesse.
Running Scared is a few plots shy of being well-thought out. It starts with Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), a low-level employee of an Italian mob family, who, over the course of 18 hours, has one hell of a time. First, he has to get rid of a gun that killed a crooked cop in a drug deal gone bad. Instead of disposing of it, however, Joey goes home and hides it in a panel in the basement as future collateral, only to have his 10 year-old son's best friend, Oleg (Cameron Bright), discover and abscond with the weapon so he can shoot his abusive Russian stepfather (Karel Rodan), who is also mob connected. Then we get to follow young Oleg, now on the run, as he encounters all manner of nocturnal miscreants. I mean, seriously, this is the kind of night that should permanently screw the kid up. Meanwhile, Joey--aided by both his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son--is trying desperately to get to the boy and the gun before the mob factions find out. Not one of your more stellar evenings.
What is cutie-pie Paul Walker doing shooting people, having sex on a dryer and saying the f-word over and over, after he just saved a pack of Huskies from freezing to death in the Antarctic? Kind of bad timing for Walker to have his feel-good family movie Eight Below released a week before this R-rated bloodbath. Running Scared definitely shows an edgier Walker, but the outdoorsy movies just work better for him. The young Bright, on the other hand, has made a short career of playing creepy, sullen kids. First, he disturbed us out as a cloned child in Godsend; then he made us really uncomfortable as a kid who claims he's Nicole Kidman's reincarnated husband in Birth. So, playing a boy who goes through one of the more nightmarish evenings ever isn't really a stretch. As a side note, Farmiga (The Manchurian Candidate) does a nice job as Joey's wife, who has just as much chutzpah as any of those testosterone-pumped mob guys.
This is how writer/director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) describes Running Scared, "It's like a Grimm's Fairy tale nightmare but taking place in the Mob world " Well, no kidding. Kramer uses familiar gritty crime drama techniques, such as framing the film in that grainy, washed out look and doing slo-mos of people getting plastered by shotguns. You know the drill. It's effective but the problem is while Kramer bombards the audience with one Grimm situation after another--from pedophiles to crazed pimps to ear-biting gangsters--he forgets to create a cohesive film. Of course, the director nearly redeems himself with a clever twist near the end, but it's just not enough to make up for the many times you're sitting there cringing and thinking, "What the ?"
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.