Running Scared

Writer-director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER) takes a bold trip down the path blazed by Matthew Bright's scabrous modern-day fairy-tale films FREEWAY (1996) and FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY (1999) with this deranged story of a small boy's journey into the deepest, darkest heart of the woods, where no one is as he or she seems and the worst wolves are...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Writer-director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER) takes a bold trip down the path blazed by Matthew Bright's scabrous modern-day fairy-tale films FREEWAY (1996) and FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY (1999) with this deranged story of a small boy's journey into the deepest, darkest heart of the woods, where no one is as he or she seems and the worst wolves are hairy on the inside. Low-level mob flunky Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is devoted to his wife, Teresa (Vera Farmiga), and their 11-year-old son, Nicky (Alex Neuberger), but runs with loose cannon Tommy "Tombs" Perello (Johnny Messner), whose father, Frankie (Arthur J. Nascarella), is a major mob player. After a botched drug deal that leaves a dirty cop dead, Tommy charges Joey with disposing of the gun. But Joey instead adds it to the secret stash of incriminating weapons he keeps as a hedge against the day the Perellos turn on him, as they inevitably will — after all, he's not family. Unfortunately, Nicky and his best friend from next door, Oleg (Cameron Bright, no relation to Matthew), see Joey hide the gun, and unbeknownst to Nicky, Oleg swipes the seductively sleek, shiny, snub-nosed revolver. More unfortunate still is what happens when Oleg goes home to his nightmare family: After watching his volatile, crystal-meth-addicted, John Wayne-obsessed stepfather, Anzor (Karel Roden) — the disgraced nephew of brutal Little Odessa overlord Ivan Yugorsky (John Noble) — brutally batter his mother, Mila (Ivana Milicevic), Oleg draws the gun and fires. Anzor survives with a slug buried in his chest, but by the time the police arrive, Oleg is off and running with Joey in hot pursuit. If Anzor's bullet is connected with the earlier shooting, Joey's number is up, so Joey, with Nicky in tow to help anticipate his friend's moves, follows Oleg's nightmarish odyssey through an urban underworld crawling with real-life ogres, witches and big bad wolves like crooked Detective Rydell (Chazz Palminteri), loco pimp Lester (David Warshofsky) and the Stepford couple (Elizabeth Mitchell, Bruce Altman) who love children in the worst possible way. Incredibly violent, scorchingly foulmouthed and deeply disturbing on all kinds of levels, Kramer's gore-spattered fable of innocence betrayed and ties deeper than blood is a throwback to the days of no-holds-barred exploitation films with surprisingly sophisticated ideas lurking beneath the shocks. It's way too violent and perversely excessive for many tastes, but there's more to its outrages than meets the eye, and that second look is well worth taking.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Writer-director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER) takes a bold trip down the path blazed by Matthew Bright's scabrous modern-day fairy-tale films FREEWAY (1996) and FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY (1999) with this deranged story of a small boy's journey int… (more)

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