Dir. by Peter Hyams - 1 hr. 47 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
"Running Scared" is one of my sister's childhood favorite movies, so I've watched it previously a number of times, too. It's been a number of years since I had watched it last, so I had a general sketch of it in my head, but I really enjoyed getting a number of details that I had mistakenly mis-attributed to other films solidified this time around. I'm not going to pretend that "Running Scared" is an all-time great film, but it's free of a lot of the cliches that have infested the buddy cop movie over the years, and that goes a long way.
Ray (Gregory Hines) and Danny (Billy Crystal) are undercover policemen in Chicago, and are surprised to see Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits) out of jail and conducting big drug deals again. They don't nab Julio, but do get their hands on Snake (Joe Pantoliano, with pink hair!), and try to get him to flip on Julio. When this doesn't go down they way they had planned, Ray and Danny are suspended, and head to Key West to chill out. The trip agrees with them, so they both decide to quit and buy a bar there. Upon their return, they offer their thirty day notice, but learn that Julio has skated on the charges they had hung on him. They vow to nab Julio for good within their thirty days, and set about accomplishing that task.
I'll be honest, having twenty-some years of films between this one and now had conditioned me to expect healthy doses of tired black people/white people humor to pad out the run-time, built around a boring catch-the-bad-guy motive that plays out over the last ten minutes of the film. But comedies from the 80's frequently play out differently. Just like with "Brewster's Millions," the relationship between Hines and Crystal is that of a pair of old friends, not a deliberately (and transparently) mismatched pair of stereotypes. This is probably the biggest cliche that's deftly avoided, and I breathed a deep sigh of relief when it became apparent that "Running Scared" wasn't going there.
Also awesome: although both characters are kind of hot-shot weirdos (which is explained as a necessary component of their job), they are characters with real, relatable frustrations. They've both got exes, and have prioritized their job and friendship over everything else. Danny's ex, Anna (Darlene Fluegel), is kind of a one-note character (loving Danny while wishing he'd "grow up"), but rather than sounding like nails on a chalkboard, it both makes sense and explains why there aren't a million women in this film. The ones that are there are fleeting, but that's how both Danny and Ray have constructed their lives.
In terms of "must-see" comedy bits, there's not a ton to be found here. Both Crystal and Hines are pretty good, but even when they're engaging in hijinks, the tone of the film doesn't lend itself to loud guffaws. There's a bit when Crystal does a fake voice that's good, and seeing Jimmy Smits run around in pink Jockeys is always good for a laugh. There's also an extended car chase between a limo and a taxi cab that ends up on the L, which is worth checking out. The entire film is decent, and it's enjoyable, but there's nothing that stands out. But then again, part of my enjoyment of this film is seeing 80's Chicago caught on film - it's a little bit of nostalgia to see what the world looked like when I was a kid.
So check out "Running Scared," or don't. There are vastly worse ways to pass your time, but you might enjoy seeing Billy Crystal sticking a handgun in someone's face. If you dig 80's comedies, this one ain't half bad.
2.5 / 5 - TV