Monotonous violence in ‘Running Scared’ will have the audience doing just that |

Monotonous violence in ‘Running Scared’ will have the audience doing just that

Teresa Gazelle (Vera Farmiga) and her mobster husband, Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), are in danger from the mob in "Running Scared."

Ah, in a little more than a week, the Oscars will be telecast and you have to wonder sometimes why some pictures just aren’t contenders.

Well, it’s too early to call, but it’s safe to say that “Running Scared” won’t be getting any awards this time next year when Oscar rolls around. Hey, they can’t all be winners. Still, there’s plenty of action to take your mind off of everyday stuff that just seems to piles up. Speaking of piling up, when it comes to high body counts, and you can’t get enough, then you’re in for a treat.

Writer/director Wayne Kramer takes full charge interpreting his own screenplay and literally runs with it. Kramer directed “The Cooler” (starring William H. Macy and Maria Bello) a few years back. That low-budget film went on to fine reviews and made people stand up and take notice of Bello. It’s definitely worth renting (and shot in Reno, even though the story takes place in Vegas … but I digress).

Paul Walker (“Fast & The Furious” and its sequel, “2 Fast 2 Furious”) was in last week’s No. 1 movie, “Eight Below,” so to go from Disney to dismal is quite a feat, yet such a range from an actor. Walker plays newbie mobster-to-be Joey Gazelle, who must dispose of a gun that was used to murder a cop. We soon find out that gun still has quite a bit of firepower left in it before it gets retired. Trouble is, he has both sides of the law after him.

In an explosive chain of events, beginning with PJ Loughran’s graphic-novel drawings of things to unfold, “Running Scared” starts off with great promise, complete with a drug deal gone bad, dirty cops and a criminal element. Just who does one cheer for here? Director Kramer keeps the flick moving at such an eclectic pace, I think it doesn’t matter who’s zoomin’ who here. With quick clips at every second with each scene, and what seems like several alternating cameras at once, the movie must have taken forever for a final edit. It’s very stylized, I’ll give it that. The acting is pretty kinetic, too. I liked Chazz Palminteri playing a pretty good detective who tilts to the dark side.

Things play out in switchback mode, where whatever decision Joey goes with could jeopardize the fate of his family. Meanwhile, that gun that he supposedly hid has already been used again, this time to kill an abusive stepfather (Karel Roden) when his friend’s young Russian son, Oleg Yugorsky (Cameron Bright from “Birth”), gets hold of it. So much for Joey successfully trying to hide it. Now the events involve not just him but a kid whose stepfather was – get this – tied to the Russian mob, so everything becomes one disconnected circle of death, where everyone’s fate is tied to this gun.

Much like a well-paced video game, “Running Scared” takes the viewer from one level that looks like things could come to a conclusion, before another unexpected turn leaves the participant with a new set of scenarios that have to be played out. But one wrong turn and, whoosh: Game Over.

Walker is good as this anti-hero character, and when it comes to picking sides, to either root for the criminal or dirty cop element, well, tough call. In fact, most of the characters are cut from your basic stereotypes that one can spot pretty easily. Not a terrible flick, but much like a video game that runs out of challenges too quickly, you tend to lose interest just as quickly. And when you have such a movie that clocks in at over two hours, it may be you who will be running scared.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.

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