Depravity, Lust, and Adobe After Effects
Remind me never to move to New Jersey. If Wayne Kramer’s nihilistic crime thriller Running Scared is to be believed, pretty much everybody who lives there is a sociopath of one variety or another. It’s the type of place where you pray the person you run into on the way home from work at night is just a rapist, instead of a necrophiliac. Fairly early on in Running Scared, the film reaches a level of absurdity better suited for fantasy, but bizarrely, instead of falling apart, this is where the movie really succeeds. Almost unnoticeably, the film segues from pulpy crime thriller into a dark urban fairy tale. Wait, that sounds pretty gay, like the movie turns into Little Red Riding Hood with track marks and a shaved vagina. What I mean to say is that the cartoonish nature of the characters works in the film’s favor, instead of reducing it to a Quentin Tarantino parody.
Telling the story of a lost gun and its repercussions throughout the criminal underworld, Running Scared stars Paul Walker and Claire Forliani. Wait. No it doesn’t. It stars someone who looks exactly like Claire Forliani, but is probably considerably cheaper to hire. Walker is best known as the blond guy who takes his shirt off in movies about fast cars or surfing, but here manages to hold his own. He plays a low-level mob strongman who gets in over his head when a gun he’s been assigned to dispose of falls into the hands of the creepy kid who got diddled by Nicole Kidman in Birth. Along the way to retrieve the weapon, he meets pimps, child murderers, and dirty cops, and that’s just in his driveway. Essentially, Running Scared is Sin City with colour film stock and an ear for dialogue not cribbed from a Raymond Chandler novel.
The film’s main flaw, however, is in its over-reliance on style. Have you ever met a beautiful woman so insecure that she masks her natural looks with garish make-up? Well, Running Scared is that woman, except she’s painted up like a clown prostitute, distracting you with her red, bulbous nose and the way her mascara runs when you pop one off on her face. The story, performances, and characters in Running Scared are entertaining, but not strong enough that they can cruise along without a good head of steam. By the time the film reaches its illogical and improbable conclusion, it needs to be going fast enough that you don’t notice how little sense it makes, but it’s hard to get carried away with the movie if it stops every ten minutes to jerk off at the editing console, cutting every action scene into a million pieces like a jigsaw puzzle of a Marilyn Manson music video. Everything switches speeds and flashes back so often, I thought I was high on time. Nevertheless, even that can be forgiven, because it’s better to have style and substance than a lack of either, and this movie has both. In the world of Running Scared, you can have your cake and rape it too.