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Running Scared
1986 - R - 109 Mins.
Director: Peter Hyams
Written By: Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston
Starring: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Dan Hedaya, Joe Pantoliano, Steven Bauer
Review by: John Ulmer
   
There isn't much running in "Running Scared." In fact, there isn't much of characters being scared, either. Surprising, especially considering the fact that the title involves both of those two words. Perhaps that's why my disappointment in the film is quite strong--instead of original material (running scared), we're subjected to "Lethal Weapon" humor and two buddies with low chemistry.

Yes, this came out a year before "Lethal Weapon," but it's not as good. I have yet to truly enjoy a film by Peter Hyams, and this does not improve my feelings for his direction. Although the real problems with the film lie in the script by Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston. It's just not always that funny. Amusing, yes, but not very funny.

Here's my thoughts on what should have happened: Two Chicago cops (Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines) witness a Mafia murder and flee to a Pacific island in hopes of escaping from a pack of hitmen on their trail. Once there, they find out that they still haven't lost the murderers, so they basically (a) run and are (b) scared, hence the title.

Here's the real plot: Two streetwise cops (Crystal and Hines) are hot on the trail of a drug lord (Steven Bauer). When they get too close, he gets away, so basically they chase him around throughout the entire film. But when I say chase, I don't mean run--there's the mandatory car chase (including the ol' vehicle-on-the-train-tracks cliche), the ex-wife who gets in the way, and the big explosive ending where the two buddies rescue the hostage and save the day.

Puh-lease.

Really, I don't understand the title of the film. After seeing a snapshot photo of Crystal and Hines outside a pool in short-shorts wearing sunglasses under the bright sun, and reading the plot description in my TV guide, I expected the plot would be a refreshing twist on the buddy formula--buddies on the run. My expectations were too high.

It's not about running buddies at all. It's about two stupid buddies with no chemistry who make wisecracks and do some pretty dumb things, not to mention they have some pretty dumb things happen to themselves. They don't seem to be very real at all--at least not in a Riggs and Murtaugh type of way. After being faced at gunpoint in Chicago against two young criminals, they start cracking jokes and showing the two kids their police badges. Then they start taunting the kids to shoot them. If I were a cop making an arrest in a bad area of Chicago, I wouldn't be so confident in my rather unbelievable choices.

I'm overreacting. This is a buddy movie anway, right? Not to be taken seriously? Of course not. But sometimes it gets annoying when a film is rooted primarily in stupid antics and insults and gags and wisecracks that get old after a while. That's why a series such as "Lethal Weapon" remained so very fresh--it didn't rely on stupid buddies cracking pitiful jokes all the time.

I can't express how disappointed I am that I did not enjoy "Running Scared." I love cheesy comedies from the 80s, as many people who read my reviews probably already know. I like the homey little low-budget, forgotten comedies of the 80s featuring famous actors before they became famous, in films their fans don't even really care about. I like to sit down at two in the morning on a Friday or Saturday night, curl up and watch a really cheesy, bad movie from the 80s.

"Running Scared" fits the bill, but the humor just isn't there.

I give this film a recommendation based solely upon the fact--as silly as it may seem--that Billy Crystal does a Dan Hedaya impersonation. "Where is his partner, hmm?" he barks into the phone. Classic bit of tongue-in-cheek self-referential filmmaking. I loved that scene. I wish the entire movie had been like that.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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