Welcome to the hellhole that is New Jersey.
While I am aware that graphic novels are having an ever-increasing impact on the visual style of movies, it might help if director Wayne ("The Cooler") Kramer made even the slightest attempt to distance his blood-soaked bullet fest from recent pics like "Sin City." There's so much jump-cutting and first-person action in this thing that I skipped the popcorn and opted for the extra-large bucket of Rolaids. What makes such stylistic indulgences so infuriating is that they're like flames painted on a Ford Fiesta -- style pretending to be substance. Such films have become the kaleidoscopes of cinema. The pretty colors are interesting for five seconds until you realize the pattern is repeating endlessly.
Kramer also wrote the script, so the story's evolution is like watching a bad writer hopelessly search for that hook that will make his audience care. Tommy "Tombs" Perello (Johnny Messner) tasks mob enforce Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) with disposing of a gun used in the murder of a dirty cop. Iinstead of tossing the piece in the river, Joey tosses it in his basement cupboard where his son and his neighbor's kid, Oleg (Cameron Bright), find it. Oleg then uses the piece to blow a hole in his stepfather, Anzor (Karel Roden). Joey spends the rest of the film running after Oleg and anybody else he thinks might have the gun.
"Running Scared" reeks of desperation, and the first clue is the simple, unfortunate fact that I was reminded of the 1986 Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines cop film of the same name. Are decent titles that hard to come by? This one could have been called "The Gun" or "Bullet Frenzy" or "Crapville." If you're going to rip off the title of another film, why not go for broke and call it "Citizen Kane"? As with most films inspired by graphic novels, watching Kramer search for his genre is like watching a schizophrenic search for continuity. Oleg's stepfather has a John Wayne fetish that Kramer tries to use to cast "Running Scared" in the mold of a new western, which works about as well as casting Paul Walker in the tough guy role.
As Joey tries to find him, Oleg encounters one disgusting, morally objectionable character after another. Kramer has an affection for Pimp Lester (David Warshofsky), who's obviously a caricature, though not a remotely original one, but when poor Oleg ends up in the clutches of a couple who are obviously some kind of child masochists, the camera lens starts turning back on Kramer, whose sense of humor might warrant some kind of criminal investigation.
"Running Scared" is an apt description of how you'll feel leaving the theater.
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