Paul Walker casts off his pretty boy persona to get damaged and dirty in Wayne Kramer's Running Scared, but was it really worth the effort? Paul plays a hood named Joey, charged with ditching a gun used by his mob boss in the slaying of a local cop. Joey screws up, his neighbor's kid gets it, and uses it to shoot his abusive, John Wayne obsessed father. Kramer's script only gets more implausible from there.
If he's going to save his hide from both jail and mob retribution, Joey has to get the gun back. To get the gun back he has to find the kid, and to find the kid we'll all have to travel with him through a series of increasingly absurd circumstances and unlikely side tangents for a violent, confusing, boorishly long 122 minutes.
Running Scared is absolutely dizzying as Kramer tries to squeeze anything and everything into his film, regardless of how it fits in with what's going on or whether it moves his central plot forward. A lot of it doesn't, and the movie gets completely lost somewhere between the Russian mob and a pair of child molesting serial killers. Weirdly enough, there might have been a good dark comedy buried somewhere in there, but Kramer's playing this as a heavy chase, catch, and escape thriller. The result is something that alternates between tedious and unintentionally laughable.
The strangest thing here is that Paul Walker is actually the movie's strength. I'm not trying to sell this as some sort of acting ability awakening in Walker, but the grittier, hard-edged, scared to death persona of Joey suits him better than any of the others we've seen him stumble over during his already too long career. Paul knows panic, and he sells it better than you'd expect judging from his shockingly bad past work in movies like Timeline or The Fast and the Furious.
But Paul's not saving anything with his surprisingly adequate performance. Neither is anyone else. Running Scared keeps ratcheting up the intensity, but to what end? Kramer's movie is a confusing disaster. Some might be lured into overlooking its many flaws by the extreme violence or stylized flash forward, flash backward storytelling. Or maybe it's the excessive use of the "F" word that floats your boat. Don't fall for it. There's nothing here worth trumpeting. If you're looking for gonzo violence and uncomfortable FCC violations, there's better places to find it. Quentin Tarantino is still out there somewhere, and Madonna let's Guy Ritchie out of his cage once in awhile. You don't need this one. Run screaming from Running Scared.