Saturday, June 17, 2006

Running Scared (2006)

Running Scared has such a frantic and panic filled pace, one wonders if the title refers to the characters in the film, or writer/director Wayne Kramer.

The movie is filled with so many camera tricks, special effects, action scenes, and interesting angles that one gets the sense that Kramer is hoping his directing abilities will stay two steps ahead of his mediocre script.

That's not a completely bad thing.

The film has an energy and enthusiasm that reminds Lons at Crushed by Inertia of Tony Scott's early work, most notably True Romance. While I won't go so far as to make that comparison, I will say that there is some interesting work in the film.

Paul Walker, in a surprising role, plays Joey Gazelle, a low level Mafia henchman, who gets in over his head, when a series of events, notably concerning a missing gun, spirals out of his control, and forces not only him, but his entire family, to take things into their own hands in order to survive the night.

Paul Walker, although obviously mis-cast, does his most impressive work to date. Chazz Palminteri is back finally doing respectable tough guy work. Johnny Messner continues to give audiences a glimpse of what it's like being the next big thing, and newcomer Vera Farmiga turns in a solid job as Walker's wife.

But the real star here is Wayne Kramer who does interesting, and eye opening work.

He uses the opportunity here to display all his technical skills and abilities. In a sense, the movie almost feels like it was made just so that it can be a calling card for Kramer to display in the future. To demonstrate his capabilities for higher profile work, and to showcase his visual skill and creativity.

Sort of like what El Mariachi did for Robert Rodriguez.

Although Kramer has a lot more resources, and money at his disposal.

A hell-of-a lot more.

But the film has that same desperate, and hungry sensibility of a student filmmaker who is given a chance, and will do anything and everything not to waste the opportunity.

It's clear that he tries to pull out all the stops, he mixes different genres, creates tension, sprinkles in some drama and laughs, and orchestrates action scenes with skill, and precision. All while working, with a cast of character actors and relative unknowns, with the exception of Paul Walker of course.

Which inevitably, and unfairly brought about comparisons to Quentin T's work by critics.

Although, I halfway expected to see super-titles during the film like in Q.T.'s work, the movie isn't so much a rip off, as it is playing in the same genre or vicinity of Q.T.'s work.

My chief complaint about the film may just be a personal preference.

Most of the script's technique for creating tension, and suspense is based on horror movie cliches. Specifically, the dependence of supporting characters making stupid, and illogical choices to frustratingly propel, and prolong the protagonist fear, while at the same time pushing the plot forward.

It's something that I HATE in horror movies, despise actually, and usually has me reaching for the fast forward, or worse, the eject button on the remote control. (Which I confess, I almost did throughout the course of the film.)

While one can argue that the supporting characters aren't exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer. It still doesn't make it any more enjoyable, personally, for me to watch.

There is, however, a interesting subplot in the film concerning a creepy couple, and Walker's wife that really hits all the right notes, and is a welcome diversion, to the frustrating main storyline of Walker tracking down a missing gun.

I'm not sure if it was the characters, the directing style, or just obligation to see the movie through, but there was something about the film that kept me entertained.

Which is a tiny victory for the film.

To be honest, the final act of the film is really silly, and to tell the truth just plain illogical. But, if one is able to hang in there, by the time the audience gets there, it's pretty clear this story isn't taking itself too seriously, and is just meant to be taken in as a late-night dvd popcorn film.

So although, I won't go as far as recommending the dvd, if one is looking for some mindless fun, with interesting visual stimulus, and some cheap thrills, then look no further than Running Scared.

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