Thursday, March 10, 2016

Riske Business: Mall Movies of the 2000s: Running Scared (2006)

by Adam Riske
Running Scared is a minor classic. It’s also a movie that’s very angry and maybe on cocaine.

The Entrance:
Welcome to my semi-regular mall movies column! What is a mall movie you ask? Here’s the definition from Riske’s dictionary:

Mall Movie (mawl moovee) (noun):
A movie released in the year 2000 or later that would have played at a shopping mall cinema if it were released in the 1980s or 1990s. Kitschy, genre-defined, eclectic, exploitative, incongruous, idiosyncratic, sleepover appropriate.

I used to love getting dropped off at the mall to see a movie. I look back on my coming-of-age years in the 1990s, which mall movies played a large part of, with great reverence. To me there was nothing better than getting together with friends, going to get a slice of pizza, hitting the comic book store, stopping at the arcade and finishing up the afternoon with a mall movie. I miss those days. I especially miss that mall movie theaters barely exist anymore. They’ve all been taken over by multiplexes where every mainstream theater plays every mainstream movie. It used to not be this way. Being a movie that played at the mall used to mean something, so I want to play a game of “what if?” What if mall theaters lasted into the 2000s? What movies would play at the mall? My first pick is 2006’s Running Scared written and directed by Wayne Kramer.
Shops to Stop At:
Running Scared’s mall movie signifiers:
1. Released by New Line Cinema
2. Ultra/Hyper-violent
3. Stars a B-list action star (which Paul Walker was in 2006)
4. Features at least one sequence in a strip club
5. Takes places primarily over the course of one hellish night
6. Has either opening or closing credits that are animated

Underneath It Mall
Running Scared is a sneaky, insidious movie. When you watch the movie’s trailer, it gives you the impression that it’s a mob movie. But what I think it is, and what became clear to me on a second viewing, is that it’s really a revenge fantasy against people who physically (and especially) sexually abuse children. In this sense Running Scared has more in common with stick-it-to-the -Nazis-revenge fantasies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Inglorious Basterds than mob movies like The Godfather or Goodfellas. Why do I think this? Let’s look at Running Scared’s centerpiece, and most memorable, sequence and expand outward.
It’s the scene where Vera Farmiga’s character goes to rescue the character Oleg (played by Cameron Bright), who has been abducted by a couple of pedophile murderers played by Bruce Altman and Elizabeth Mitchell. That scene plays like a mini-movie removed from the A-plot of the feature. It’s harrowing and unforgettable and features some of the best acting of Vera Farmiga’s career, who is an actress I greatly admire and consider myself a huge fan of. On top of that, the movie dishes out severe punishment to Oleg’s abusive stepfather (who is shot several times throughout the course of the movie) and (as told in a flashback that provides backstory to Paul Walker’s character) we learn that Walker dished out some punishment to his own abusive father so much so that he’s now an invalid that Walker and his family care for. This can’t be by accident. It has to be by design. This movie hates these abusers and what they represent and I think it is what Running Scared is actually secretly about. It’s just woven into this mob story because the mob aspect is so much more commercial.

Mall Run
Turns out it didn’t matter, because Running Scared was a disappointment at the box office. Not that it matters. People were busy seeing Doogal that weekend. I did my research. Doogal and Running Scared shared the same opening weekend and Doogal made more money. Fucking Doogal. Then again, I shouldn’t be mad at Doogal. It would also play at the mall because all broke-ass animated movies play at the mall. Doogal. This is why we can’t have nice things, people! You put down your mall coins for Doogal, leaving you with no bread for Scared. I’ll let you off the hook, though. I didn’t see Running Scared until it came out on DVD so I’m part of the problem as well.
How was the trip? (Ratings go from 1-4)
Tell mom to pick us up in 3.5 hours!

What’s Next at the Mall?
Titan A.E., followed by ice cream and a trip to the game store!


  1. Doogal? I can´t even remember that film exists. It has a 2.8 rating versus a 7.4 for Running Scared on IMDB. At least a little bit of justice...
    To me Running Scared is one of the best Paul Walker movies. Fast paced, bloody, suspenseful and equipped with a good story, this is a winner, regardless of it´s boxoffice take.

    1. Totally agree, Oliver, and it IS my favorite Paul Walker and Wayne Kramer film. Where that movie goes is so unexpected and it hits some dark, dark, places. I love it. Also, I love the idea of this column, Riske!

    2. I think Paul Walker's performance in this movie is great. It's impressive that he can keep his energy up like he does the entire movie. It's so unlike his other performances.

  2. I will just second the notion that this is (out of what I've seen) Paul Walker's best film & performance.

    Running Scared is truly an underrated winner. Also, it looks utterly GORGEOUS on Blu, so if anyone wants to hit that link above, you won't be disappointed.

  3. Aye, a terrific flick. And I know PB's praised it elsewhere on the site, but Walker and Alba's Into the Blue, while not subtext-rich like Running Scared, also deserves recognition as a quality caper.