Running Scared

Running Scared (2006)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Johnny Messner, Chazz Palminteri
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Storyboards, Trailer, DVD ROM, Graphic Novel

Once in a great while a movie comes along that almost literally blows you away. Nothing could have prepared me for "Running Scared." Wayne Kramer's latest film is a hard-hitting, visceral, over-the-top extravaganza of blood and bullets that doesn't let up for one second. This ultra-violent action flick makes a thrilling debut on DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment.

Getting off to a pulsating start, the film opens with a shockingly violent drug bust that leaves mob hand Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) in charge of a gun used in the murder of several police officers. Ordered to dispose of it, Joey hides the weapon in his basement for safe-keeping. Unbeknownst to him, 10-year-old Oleg from next door (Cameron Bright) steals the gun and shoots his abusive step-father. As both crime bosses and the police go searching for the missing weapon, Oleg and Joey find themselves thrust into a twisted, urban fairy-tale world of sleazy characters and bizarre twists from which there seems to be no escape.

If Sam Peckinpah, Brian De Palma, Quentin Tarantino, and Alfred Hitchcock had collaborated on a film together, it might have come close to the level of grime and utter nihilism that writer-director Wayne Kramer has achieved. The screen itself seems to drip with sweat and blood with scene after scene of relentless brutality. Joey and Oleg's trip down the rabbit hole is a despairingly dark odyssey of crime and suspense that culminates in a final showdown that is so utterly horrific, I can't even begin to describe it (and even if I could, I wouldn't spoil it).

The storyline is confusing to be sure. There are plot holes and ambiguities galore, but please, did a Hitchcock film ever hold up under close scrutiny? The dialogue alternates between outrageously profane and downright unbelievable, but that's not what "Running Scared" is about. Between the film's dizzying visuals and frenetic pacing, you won't have the time to carp about such things.

Following in Hitchcock's vein, Kramer has the main characters running from both the villains and the police. These two groups collide in Chazz Palminteri, who has a flashy role as a corrupt cop with a special interest in underworld activities. He is only one of several characters who are not what they initially seem to be. Throughout his nightmarish journey, Oleg encounters a prostitute who takes him under her wing, a narcissistic pimp, and a homeless man with sinister intentions.

One intriguing sequence actually has little Oleg fall into the hands of a pair of pedophiles/child pornographers. This episode provides a marvelous showcase for Vera Farmiga as Joey's wife, who comes to Oleg's rescue. Elizabeth Mitchell and Bruce Altman are simply chilling as the suburban couple who lure children into their high-rise apartment for their own devious pleasures. With their disquieting sweetness and steadfast conviction, they make for two of the most frightening villains in contemporary film.

New Line Home Entertainment has delivered the film in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The cinematography is intentionally grainy, with a few scenes of muted sepia tones and others of bright pastels. The DVD print masterfully preserves the film's grimy appearance. There are no signs of edge enhancement. Deep blacks and good contrast allow for extraordinary detail and enhance the film's extensive use of shadows and high lighting.

There is also no slacking in the audio department, with English tracks provided in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, 6.1 DTS, and 2.0 stereo. The sound is dynamic on all levels, especially during the shootout scenes. Ambience and sound effects are distributed well around the front and back speakers, putting you right in the middle of the hardcore action.

Wayne Kramer offers a very informative, screen-specific audio commentary. He seems well-prepared, and like the movie, he never stops going. If ever a film required a candid one-on-one with the director, this is it, and Kramer doesn't disappoint.

Next we have an 18-minute featurette, "Running Scared: Through the Looking Glass." This offers a behind-the-scenes look at the film as well as interviews with the cast and crew. It's an entertaining feature that also gives us a sense of the chemistry between the cast members.

A couple of storyboard sequences drawn by Kramer are also provided. Paired with their respective scenes from the film, they display how the intricate opening and climactic scenes were designed and how dutifully they were followed.

We then get a theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen, as well as a slew of sneak peeks at upcoming DVD releases.

There are also some nice DVD ROM specials. First up is "Enhanced Script-to-Screen," a feature that allows you to watch the film and read the screenplay at the same time. This is especially great for people who are interested in writing their own action film. After this, links to the "Running Scared" and New Line Cinema websites are provided.

If that isn't enough to satisfy your craving, a comic book adaptation is included as an insert in the DVD case. PJ Loughran adapted this graphic novel from the movie's unforgettable climax exclusively for this release. It's a fun, quick read that perfectly captures the visual intensity of the film.

New Line Home Entertainment has certainly packed a punch in this DVD set. "Running Scared" is one of the most underrated and enthralling action movies of the year so far, and it can now be enjoyed in this fantastic release. Vile, disgusting, and unapologetically profane, this film is certainly not for all tastes. If you are squeamish or sensitive to gratuitous amounts of carnage, stay away from this one. But if you have a taste for stylish filmmaking and gritty realism, make some pop corn and check out "Running Scared." It will leave you breathless.