Thursday, February 23, 2006

Running Scared

Written and Directed by Wayne Kramer
New Line Cinema

Wow! Now this is a dirty movie! Moms and dads, don't worry about violent content and wardrobe malfunctions if your kid sees any of this in the near future. This is a movie that isn't afraid to bathe in the mud. It's a screwdriver complete with pulpy orange juice.

Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is involved with a crime family. One of the deals that goes down early in the film goes horribly awry, and lots of killing occurs. Unknowingly, they've killed some dirty cops. Tommy (Johnny Messner) and Sal (Michael Cudlitz) leave the job of stashing a key piece of evidence against them, a gun, to Joey. Joey comes home to his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son Nicky (Alex Neuberger), who is playing with his best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) in the basement. Joey stashes the gun there, not seeing the hiding kids. When Oleg goes home, next door, we are introduced to his Russian parents. His mom Mila (Ivana Milicevic) and his John Wayne-loving and abusive dad Ivan (John Noble, completely unrecognizable from his LOTR days). Guess who's got a gun? The shooting that occurs is a major problem for Joey--with the cops and now with his gang, who entrusted their well-being on that gun not being found. Now a kid has it and is running around New Jersey with it.

Sounds typical, almost. But this movie is going to twist you around and give you some of the best pulp fiction we've seen this side of Tarantino, Matthew Vaughn, and Guy Ritchie. There's a scene reminiscent of the gimp portion of Pulp Fiction in this, a lurid extra that could be the idea for a movie all on its own. The narrative is practically real-time--it's one night in the city--a lost gun, dirty cops, bad people of all varieties, innocent people having to do bad things, all mixed into one. The early score is at 40% positive. I guess I'm not shocked. When you see Paul Walker you tend to expect the worst and look for any reason not to like the movie. But if Tarantino had directed this, we'd have people coming out of the woodwork to praise it.

Sure, it's unbelievably violent. But what a kick it is. It's original. People need to come out and see this movie in droves if we're going to see less derivative stuff in the future. And by the way, Paul Walker kicks ass in this. It's the first time I've ever gotten involved with any of his performances. He's usually pretty stoic, even in Eight Below where his acting style works. I just want to know why the critical response has been so negative--this is the type of movie the critical community wishes would come out all the time.


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