A review of “Running Scared” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for extreme violence, nudity and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes



If violence isn’t your thing read no further because Wayne Kramer’s brutally graphic crime thriller is a cinematic gore-fest of unyielding proportions.

From the opening frame Kramer establishes himself as a Son of Tarantino, positioning his narrative on a gratuitous crimson tide that flows with high-octane commotion. 

Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is a low-level crook involved in a bitch of a drug scheme that goes bad fast, resulting in an artsy, slow-mo hail of bullets that kills an undercover cop.

          Joey’s home life is as stable as his shaky vocation allows. He’s a loving but disciplined dad to son Nicky (Alex Neuberger) and gruffly affectionate with wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) who is less than thrilled with Joey’s latest caper-gone-bust.

          Nicky chums around with neighbor boy Oleg Yugorsky (Cameron Bright), spawn of a bad-news Russian mafia dad. The kids get wind of a gun stashed in the Gazelle’s basement and it’s off to the races as Oleg filches the cinematic MacGuffin that can inevitably be traced back to the dead cop.

          Oleg wisely disappears and discovers a bleak world populated by the city’s most notorious pond scum. Hookers, mafia, killers, and pedophiles are just a few of the unseemly folk who make their tawdry presence felt while a delirious and cutthroat scavenger hunt ensues for the kid and his loaded companion.

          Kramer plays it Sin City-esque, all jerky camera movements and washed-out color. Intravenous “Pulp Fiction” with a chaser of sanguineous slick; a Molotov cocktail of double-cross and revenge. 

          “Scared” isn’t flawless, in fact its shortcomings are too numerous to count. Sinister stereotyping, overindulgent violence, plot absurdities and a garish aura of genre thievery take their toll in the name of target-market thrills. 

But Walker is clearly out to prove that he’s more than just a pretty face, paying out excess energy in support of a kinetic guilty pleasure. Farmiga is a pro – I see many more respectable projects in her future. 

The pedophile angle is subtly gruesome and altogether disconcerting, lending a painfully topical authenticity to the easy concept of pure-adrenaline rush.