Running Scared (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"Running Scared is a vicious and brutal B-movie jacked up to hysterical, hallucinatory proportions -- a pulpy, violent action picture that torments the viewer as much as its characters ...

... and I mean that as a compliment."

*** The Miami Herald ***


Paul Walker plays Joey Gazelle, a small-time hoodlum who is entrusted with the responsibility of disposing the weapons used in a mob massacre which resulted in the death of many (crooked) cops. For reasons of his own, Joey hides the weapons in his own basement, where they are found by two kids. The kid next door uses one of the guns to shoot his abusive stepfather, a mobster, and this sets up a desperate situation which Joey must deal with. Joey knows that the slugs in the dead cops and the slug in the stepfather can be matched, so he has to run around and tamper with some evidence before everyone else finds out what he already knows. Meanwhile, the boy next door is scared and has run away with the gun, so Joey has get to the gun and the boy before anyone else does. The movie's frenetic pace captures Joey's high-speed quest to outmaneuver the cops and the mob for control of the gun, the slugs, and the boy.

That simple summary doesn't convey much about the film's intrinsic nature. There is nothing in this film which resembles reality, or even approaches it. It is a pulp cinema concoction which exists in its own form of comic book reality. The bad guys are one-dimensional, ugly, and evil beyond redemption. The violence and torture scenes are stylized and over-the-top. The plot twists are improbable and operatic. The cinematography and editing are flamboyant. The plot moves very fast, everything is exaggerated, and the whole adventure plays out like Sin City as remade by Tony Scott.

In general, critics were not very receptive to the film, although there were exceptions. It also failed almost completely at the box office: it had a bad opening week, a massive drop-off in the second week, and virtually nothing thereafter. Despite all those negatives, it has managed to accumulate minor cult status among the fans of pulp cinema.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted:

If Running Scared had come out in 1994, before Pulp Fiction, it - and (director Wayne) Kramer - would be hailed as blazingly original. But questions of originality notwithstanding, there's plenty of blazing going on here.

As we say here in Tejas, I kinda liked it my ownself. If you think about the film too much, it may seem juvenile, but isn't that also true of Leon or Pulp Fiction or Sin City? That's the nature of the pulp cinema genre. The way the movie experience actually works in Running Scared is that there really isn't much time to consider analytical matters because the director serves up the action like a boxer using body blows: the strategy is to keep you from catching your breath. It moves fast, it hammers away constantly, it catches your attention early, and it's pumped full of adrenalin. Best of all, it manages to do all that while letting the story and characters breathe a bit. Oh, sure, it's no Cameron Crowe movie in terms of character development, but the lead actors (Paul Walker and Vera Farmiga) manage to make their characters seem enough like flesh-and-blood people that the story seems to have at least some anchor in reality. Although the technique is flashy, I didn't ever get a feeling that the story was taking a back seat to the director's pyrotechnics, unlike Tony Scott's Domino, for example.

It does seem to me that the IMDb score of 7.2 is a tad high, and I can see why some critics disliked it, because it is not a very thoughtful movie and it's all been done before by Richie and Besson and others. On the other hand, I can also see why some younger guys thought it was pretty cool. This isn't the kind of film I would pick out for my own pleasure, but I think it may just hit the spot for you if you like such directors as Quentin Tarantino, Luc Besson, Guy Richie, Tony Scott, and Robert Rodriguez. It's a solid offering among those films for 12-year-old boys of all ages.



  • Widescreen, anamorphically enhanced
  • Commentary by writer/director Wayne Kramer
  • "Running Scared: Through the Looking Glass" featurette



  • Vera Farmiga - the very top of her pubic hair, and her butt in a thong.

  • Paul Walker - butt.

  • Various strippers - full frontal and real nudity.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three stars out of four. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • British consensus: not quite two stars out of four. Telegraph 2/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Sun 6/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 6/10, BBC 1/5.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.2/10. It scores extremely high with under 18s, and fairly high with young adults 18-24. Although it is less popular among older viewers, it still scores at least 6.4 from every demographic group.
  • Box Office Mojo. It was a disappointment. It grossed $7 million domestically, and its opening weekend was a mere $3.3 million on 1600 screens. It opened in the 9th spot, and dropped 60% in its second weekend. After the initial two week run, it grossed only a couple of hundred thousand more. Only 200 theaters held it over for a third weekend, and they probably wish they hadn't.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C, a good watch for those who enjoy pulp cinema. Not a genre classic, but a solid entry.

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