Forget the cute Hollywood sled dogs from “Eight Below,” leave the kids at home and tell the Disney Channel to interview someone else because it’s time for classic F-word bombing, fast car driving and shotgun blasting Paul Walker fun. “Running Scared,” Walker’s foray into closer-to-serious acting, will take you for a ride that you’ll probably forget. Walker and friends are certainly able to make some suspenseful and satisfying moments, but its rhythm is too fast and too furious to ultimately give the film any value or fulfillment after two hours of poor storytelling.
Walker (“The Fast and the Furious”) plays a mobster whose partner shoots a cop during a busted mob deal. Eventually, the gun used to kill the cop ends up in the hands of Walker’s 10-year-old neighbor (Cameron Bright), thus beginning an episode of “Walker: Mobster Ranger” to find the “running scared” kid. The gun changes hands multiple times throughout the film, which consequently brings in far too many characters and one too many scenes that should have been used to develop the over-used “backstabbing mob world” storyline that was apparently the bigger picture. But who needs plot development when the main theme song is reminiscent of the ballad from “Top Gun”?
Below the surface, writer and director Wayne Kramer (“The Cooler”) tried to embed a dark, nightmarish world of fear with the paralleling story involving Bright and his disturbing adventures. But when the mob world and the delirious child world finally clash to form the climax and Kramer gives his “Ha! How do ya like that?!” moment, the crowd reaction is only a smirk at the unappetizing icing atop the poorly-baked layers of the plot.
Although some will argue that the gun does a better performance than Walker, the cast really just does their job. Walker gratuitously throws his F-bombs, threatens everyone he sees and pulls off his Mark Wahlberg impression nicely; Vera Farmiga (“Touching Evil”) plays the easily lovable and empowering mother and wife of Walker; and Bright shows he can be both a cute and creepy kid stuck in a never-ending nightmare. Although the rest of the cast is a disaster, Kramer couldn’t have asked for more from his cast; it’s the cast that should be asking more from Kramer.
Kramer does, however, try to do what all dark and gritty mob movies have been competing to be the best in for years: the best original direction style. Fast and confusing rewind effects in the middle of bloody action, perspectives ranging from bullet holes to toilet bowls and cinematography that blends colors so beautifully it’s almost soothing to watch. Overall, Kramer and his editing team portrayed both the mob and child nightmare worlds brilliantly in a fast-paced environment that makes for some intense sequences.
“Running Scared” feeds off of its reckless violence, vigorous pace and stylish visuals. Unfortunately, the film tries to run like it’s being chased by a pack of Alsatians and is eventually caught and torn apart. The plot is always dragging the audience along and never leaving any time to make the plot clear. Some of the suspenseful action sequences are certainly memorable (it’s hard to forget seeing Paul Walker get a slap-shot to the face with a glowing puck), but Kramer’s final attempt at a knock-out punch is too weak and predictable to make any of it meaningful or worthwhile. If you like the intensity and exhaustion of running combined with the feeling of fear breathing down your neck, I’d suggest having someone chase you with a copy of “Timeline” instead of sitting through this week’s edition of “I’m Paul Walker and I can play any role. Seriously.”