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Film / Running Scared (2006)

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Judging by the poster, you would guess that it's a generic crime thriller, right? Hell NO.

"Speaking of movies that go over the top, Running Scared goes so far over the top, it circumnavigates the top and doubles back on itself; it's the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness. I am in awe. It throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Then it throws in the kitchen sink, too, and the combo washer-dryer in the laundry room, while the hero and his wife are having sex on top of it."

A 2006 crime film starring Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, and Vera Farmiga. It was written and directed by Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Crossing Over).

The plot follows a two plotlines: In the first, Oleg (Cameron Bright), the adolescent son of a mid-level Russian mobster, steals a gun from his neighbor's house in an effort to get back at his abusive father, only to take off running into the city. Over the course of the night, he encounters a string of strange characters, some helpful and some malevolent, giving his perilous adventure the air of an updated fairy tale.

In the second, Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), a mid-level mafioso, is tasked with disposing of several guns used by mobsters to kill Dirty Cops, but Oleg, his neighbor, steals one before he can do anything with them. Joey is forced to track Oleg's journey through the city in an effort to recover the gun before the cops, the Russian mob or the mafia can get them.

In spite of being a Box Office Bomb, the film is notable for its style and Refuge in Audacity.

Not to be confused with the buddy cop film,Running Scared (1986), starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

Running Scared contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Anzor Yugorsky, he does not kill his kid though, but instead going out John Wayne style.
  • Action Girl: Teresa, when she deals with the pedophile couple.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Not much urgency is displayed by the neighbors after Anzor's drug lab blows up right in the middle of their neighborhood, where Mila has just died and where Joey has just returned with Oleg, bleeding out from a gunshot wound.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Joey gets an awesome one after following a Red Herring.
  • ...And That Little Boy Was Me: Joey relates to Oleg in telling a story about a young boy who "Mark McGwires the fucking living shit" out of his abusive father to the point of the father being "neutralized". Putting that with the fact Joey lives with an elderly man, Joey was relating to Oleg's life and how bad his family is, and also wanting him to live normally for a good couple of more years rather than suffer under his father.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Detective Rydell and his partners, all of them mobsters as well.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Tommy and Sal take Joey out to a rail yard, seemingly to have him murdered for his screwup. Tommy becomes agitated as Joey continues to protest his innocence, and just when it looks like he's about to cap him off, he puts a slug into Sal instead.
  • Batman Gambit: On the brink of being murdered, Joey turns the mobsters against each other by saying Tommy ordered the hit on Anzor to send a message to the Russians and that he and Joey sent Oleg to carry out the deed. Cue epic Blast Out.
  • Berserk Button: Do not insult John Wayne in front of Anzor. This otherwise minor offense by Oleg is what more or less kicks the main action into high gear.
  • Blast Out: Frequent, almost to the point of being a running gag.
  • Blofeld Ploy: In a later scene, Tommy builds up a lot of tension by acting as though he and another mobster have taken Joey to a place to shoot him, but ends up turning the gun on the other mobster, explaining that they found out he had been dealing under the table, got caught and was let go as an informant.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Several, most notably one of the dirty cops, Sal, Tony, and Frankie.
  • Break the Cutie: Teresa, who starts out as a mostly mild-mannered woman who won't so much as tolerate swearing from her husband or ten-year old son. And then Oleg steals the gun and winds up in the hands of the two serial killers who Teresa must rescue him from. And then she discovers how they deal with children.....
    Teresa: I have never seen evil before tonight, Joe! Real fucking evil.
  • Broken Bird: Mila. Living with an abusive tweaker husband steadily took its toll on her, and she never left due to feeling obligated to stay since he saved her life in the past.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The film is in ninth place for the total number of uses.
  • Cop Killer: Tommy and his goons; though to be fair, the cops in question were dirty cops.
  • Country Matters: Teresa tells the pedo couple just what she thinks of them.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The home of the torturing, murdering pedo couple, decked out like a kindergarten playroom.
  • Crapsack World: Joey and Oleg find themselves at war with a hellish gangland and are met with petty crooks, drug dealers, pimps, serial killers, and mobsters at every turn.
  • Cultural Cringe: Anzor is a John Wayne fanboy and actually rather dislikes his homeland's culture.
  • Dangerously Garish Environment: The couple who briefly "rescue" Oleg live in an extremely bright apartment, all in vivid primary colors that matches the kids' games and toys they have. Because they are murderous pedophiles, and they use it to lure kids and for their own fantasies when they abuse and murder them.
  • The Determinator: Practically everyone qualifies in one way or another.
  • Disney Death: Joey at the end.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mila gives in to despair as the events of the night push her to blow herself up with her husband's meth lab.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Milla says that Anzor used to be a good guy, and married her to protect her from his father's organization. The abuse came after he became a tweaker.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the end Joey is alive and retired, free to live happily with Teresa, Nicky, and Oleg who he adopted as his stepson. And considering the night these people all went through, they had most definitely earned it.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: While searching the wealthy couple's home for Oleg. Just as she is leaving, Teresa realizes that the two don't have a single photograph of their children anywhere inside, and so she uses force to make them drop the charade.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Frankie Perello. He does not take Tommy's death well.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Anzor has no problem abusing his wife and stepson, but cannot bring himself to murder Oleg when ordered to.
  • Gorn: Quite a bit of blood spurts and open wounds following the numerous shootouts and beatings that occur. Special note to the Russian Mob boss who takes a shotgun blast tot he chest, and stays alive just long enough to turn to the camera and show off his bloody exposed ribcage before expiring.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Tommy's gun in the opening shootout; seriously, how did the dirty cops not notice that second holster on his leg?
  • Fanservice: Vera Farmiga shows a lot of skin in this movie. And she's — well, she's Vera Farmiga.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: As Joey recounts his own abusive childhood, his younger self is clearly being played by Oleg's actor.
  • Genre Throwback: To the gritty-but-stylish urban crime thrillers of the 1970s and 80s.
  • Groin Attack: Tommy blows the balls off one of the dirty cops with his snub-nosed pistol.
  • Happily Married: Joe and Teresa, who have their fair share of arguments but obviously love each other dearly.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Several instances of such, particularly in the first shootout between the mobsters and the dirty cops. After easily dispatching the Jamaican drug dealers, they fail to land a single shot against the Perello gang despite the fight being isolated to a small room and being armed with shotguns.
  • Karmic Death: Most of the criminals we see qualify; most satisfying however is when Teresa corners the serial killer couple, uncovering their entire killing spree before calling the police and gunning them both down in the same playroom where they had lured in and murdered their many victims.
  • Lady Macbeth: Edele, the wife of the serial murdering pedophile couple. She's clearly the brains behind the operation, and tries to get her husband to act when Teresa forces her way in to look for Oleg.
  • Mama Bear: Teresa, upon discovering that the nice and cheerful Dez and Edelle are actually monstrous pedophiles, immediately calls the police to report gunshots being fired and then brutally shoots them both in the chest.
  • The Mole:
    • Sal betrayed the Perellos to the cops in exchange for a pardon for his involvement in their crimes.
    • Joey, who is actually an undercover FBI agent.
  • Moral Guardians: A game on the movie's website included a lot of violence and a scene of oral sex. Naturally, Christian groups got upset about this. The sex was removed, then when the movie flopped, the whole game was yanked.
  • Nightmarish Nursery: Oleg is taken in by a kindly couple who show him their brightly-colored playroom loaded with toys and games. He soon becomes suspicious of them and calls Teresa, who is immediately disturbed by increasingly troubling details around the playroom: among other things, the couple have other children but no family photos, the floor is covered in plastic sheeting, and the couple seem insistent on filming the children. To her horror, she also finds a closet full of torture implements and snuff tapes. Teresa sends Oleg and the other children out, then coldly shoots the couple dead.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The hockey rink shootout begins with Joey getting seven shades of shit beaten out of him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Too many to count. Perhaps the biggest ones go to Oleg's theft of the gun, the dead mobsters turning out to be dirty cops, and Teresa learning of Oleg's kidnapping by the serial killer couple.
  • One Crazy Night: All of Joey and Oleg's misadventures take place during a single night.
  • Papa Wolf: Joey, to a certain degree. He dials it up the more he spends time with Oleg.
  • Pimp Duds: Lester, who dresses in a garish all-white suit with some gold bling.
  • Police Are Useless: It doesn't help that half the cops we see are just vile and amoral as the mobsters Joey must fight through. And that's to say nothing of how it took a child and a desperate mother to uncover the rampage of two depraved serial killers.
  • Precision F-Strike: "John Wayne was a faggot." A relatively mild swear, but coming from a 10-year-old boy who has very little dialogue, none of which has any cursing otherwise...
  • Rape by Proxy: The wealthy paedophile serial killer couple are implied to also engage in this, asking two of their prospective victims (two siblings) if they "like" each other.
  • Reconstruction: The whole film is basically a scary fairy tale about a boy who ran to an Enchanted Forest and met numerous monsters, including The Big Bad Wolf and a witch living in a Gingerbread House. Credits make sure you got the reference with animated sequence showing boy's misadventures in that light.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Anzor has a change of heart and can't bring himself to shoot Oleg in the climax. He puts down his gun, defiantly walks away from the mob boss, and is shot in the back.
  • The Reveal: With his boss holding him at gunpoint, Joey says there's something he wants to get off his chest. He tears open his shirt to reveal that he's been wearing a wire the whole time.
  • R-Rated Opening: The opening, where about five people die extremely brutal deaths, is proof positive that the movie you're watching is in no way safe for children.
  • Serial Killer: Dez and Edele, a couple who kidnap children to molest them before disposing of their bodies. When Terese arrives to rescue Oleg from them, she can barely resist throwing up when she sees that the couple has dozens of videotapes in their collection, all with the names of various children marked on them. Being a fairytale-inspired story, they're an analogue for the witch from Hansel and Gretel.
  • Sex for Services: Attempted. When a pharmacist refuses to give Oleg an inhaler for his asthma, Davina offers her body in exchange. When he still refuses, she finds it much easier to force him at gunpoint.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The local hockey team's slogan of "Red ice!" may be a reference to the Detroit Red Wings.
    • Lester makes a reference to Scarface (1983) at the end, which Joey mocks him for.
    • Numerous nods to Mark Rydell's The Cowboys.
    • Anzor is obsessed with John Wayne and is particularly distraught by a specific movie where Wayne's character dies.
  • The Stoic: Oleg is almost always seen with a blank expression on his face and very rarely raises his voice. Teresa even lampshades this by referring to him as: "the kid who never smiles".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Rydell was clearly a little too overconfident in his attempt to blackmail the Perello mob, and is caught totally unprepared when they send him a bag laden with explosives.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Oleg, though considering the environment he's been raised in...
  • Unholy Matrimony:
    • There's a particularly depraved example in a husband and wife who kidnap children, then molest them, videotape it, and kill them. However, it's ambiguous whether they love each other or if they bonded over their shared proclivity.
    • Anzor and Mila also count, with the former having married the latter to protect her from his uncle, only for it to have turned into a highly abusive relationship.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Oleg, who stole the gun to defend himself against his abusive stepdad, triggering a violent pursuit to get the weapon back.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never see Divina again after she is arrested by the cops. One might assume though that she didn't have it nearly as bad as nearly every other crook Oleg crossed paths with that night, or so we hope.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Oleg's years of abuse have made him highly attuned to the darker nature of the world around him; When Dez and Edele bring him to their apartment and charm him with toys, dress-up, and being on camera, he immediately realizes what's going on and calls for help.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Practically every gangster and criminal we see; Anzor most notably has left his stepson horribly scarred from multiple beatings. Ultimately subverted though as he can't pull the trigger when Yugorsky orders Oleg to be murdered.
    • Dez and Edele specifically prey on children with their crimes.