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Running Scared (DVD)

Starring: Paul Walker and the kid from Ultraviolet.

Rated: 18.

Story: A small-time gangster is tasked with disposing of a gun by his mafia boss. He keeps it for insurance but it goes missing. He has to race round town following leads in a desperate race to get it back before anyone finds out and he's used as a hockey puck by his colleagues. This puts his family in danger.

Meanwhile, a neighbour's child gets caught up in events and stumbles into almost every bad situation conceivable, thanks to his startling ability to find psychopaths wherever he goes.

Comments: A great ending can't save a poor movie but a poor ending can destroy a great movie. Imagine a Shawshank Redemption where the warden is revealed to be an alien, or a musical finale to Schlindler's List, or if at the conclusion of the Star Wars trilogy Luke joined the Dark Side and Princess Leia turned out to be a man. The consequences are unthinkable...

For most of its length, Running Scared is a passable, violent thriller with some nail-biting moments. The tension is increased by the frequent combination of children and loaded guns in close proximity. Sadly, there's a plot twist ten minutes from the end which is so sharp it dislocates the plot entirely. It essentially re-writes everything which has gone before, causing it to make much less sense. The resulting conclusion feels like it was stolen from a generic action movie (probably involving Wesley Snipes). As the film isn't exceptional to start with, the disappointment isn't on a par with Frodo waking up to discover it was all a dream but I haven't felt so short-changed since Lucky Number Slevin. Grrr.

Perhaps what's really gone wrong is that the movie is trying too hard. It's the kind of film where a meeting gets held in a strip club just because, everyone swears for the sake of it and the final shoot-out takes place somewhere dramatic but daft. Given these elements, the makers probably felt a 'shock' twist was a legal requirement.

Yeah, I know, I was going to avoid films with Paul Walker in after the disasters of The Fast and the Furious and Into the Blue, but I latched onto the phrases 'family man' and 'action thriller' in the synopsis and thought this was worth a shot. In general, it is. Walker actually does a good job and the rest of the cast is excellent. It's simply a shame the plot relies so heavily on coincidence and then makes a nonsense of itself in an effort to wrap things up.

Conclusion: Comes within a quarter of an hour of being rather good.

Explosions: One.
People doing stupid things: Plenty.
Nutters with guns: Loads.
Psychos with arcade machines: Two.
Unlikely, cop-out, happy endings: One.

Rating: 3/5.

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