When you hit Paul Walker in the face with a hockey puck, does he not bleed? This is but one of many thorny questions raised by Running Scared, a giddily awful, awfully giddy action noir that follows a low-level mafioso (Walker) on his hunt for a hot gun lifted from his family basement by a troubled neighbor-child, who in turn uses it against his abusive step-father, who just happens to be the meth-making Russian-mobster-next-door, not to mention a fanatical John Wayne aficionado. Actually, to say this movie ”follows” anything is severely misleading: Running is a fevered smashup, as if Hollywood dug up Sam Peckinpah’s corpse and forced it to adapt Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the screen.
But this isn’t a Hollywood movie at all. Writer-director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) is the latest ”outsider” to prove there’s no blockbuster cliché independent filmmakers don’t covet. Marinara accents? Check. Hooker con corazón de oro? Si. But give it this: Running Scared is pugnaciously ugly, unvarnished hackwork, and it commits to its nightmarish puerility with a vengeance. The picture pulsates with a genuine, un-focus-grouped bloodlust. A child with a gun is its central image — and it’s assumed that this will not horrify, but empower. Pederasts appear suddenly and improbably, caper demonically, and are banished ballistically. It’s as if someone smelted his personal ”issues” into bullets, spun them into a cylinder, and fired them directly into your brain.