' ' Cinema Romantico: Running Scared

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Running Scared

The 80's are often laughed at but if it wasn't for The 80's we wouldn't have the Buddy Cop movie. Oh, I'm sure prior to the year 1980 there were movies about cops who were buddies but, make no mistake, The 80's perfected this highly suspect art form. So don't say the Me Decade never gave you anything.

"Running Scared" is a 1986 entrant into the derby, pre-"Lethal Weapon", post-"Beverly Hills Cop", filmed by Peter Hyams on location in sweet home Chicago, and starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as......okay, I'm being completely honest. When I sat down to write this review I realized I could not remember the names of their characters. Not that this matters so much. They really are just Billy & Gregory, or Crystal & Hines. Either/Or.

Don't laugh. Those ARE Chicago's two toughest cops.
The Buddy Cop film on ever reliable Wikipedia is summed up thusly: "...involving two men of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime and/or defeat criminals, sometimes learning from each other in the process." However, aside from the obvious racial differences, Billy & Gregory really aren't that different and therefore don't find themselves in much self generated conflict. All the conflict in "Running Scared" comes from the bad guys.

The bad guy is Jimmy Smits, a semi-opulent Chi-town drug lord, and after Billy & Gregory's attempts at getting Jimmy Smits' lackey - Joe Pantoliano, with a whisp of red in his hair meant to symbolize, I think, a punkish attitude - to wear a wire, Billy & Gregory's chief (Dan Hedaya) sends the two play-by-their-own-rules detectives on a forced vacation to Key West where the movie truly revels in its eightiesness. Montage to cheesy synth-driven song? Check. Crystal & Hines shirtless? Oh yeah. Crystal & Hines on rollerskates? Better believe it. And it is in Key West where the buddy cops decide that they will buy a bar, survive their final 30 days on the force and retire. But, of course, they get dragged back into the case against Jimmy Smits as the stakes escalate.

So yeah, "Running Scared" really has it all. The cops are called on the carpet by the boss. There is the impending retirement scenario. There is the comes-and-goes subplot of the veterans having to train the rookies. There is the ex wife (of Crystal) who is around simply to be employed as a hostage late in the 3rd act. There are wisecracks galore (that "I'll be back" of Crystal's must've killed in '86). There are ridiculous action setpieces, most notably a car chase that uses the Windy City locale to extreme effect by placing the chase on the "L" tracks (and if I ever missed a movie because the trains were delayed because of a car chase on the "L", I would be rather upset).

The film's finest asset, by far, is the easy-going, unforced chemistry between its two stars, and it made me think about the Oscars and the moment when Billy Crystal turned up and everyone seemed relieved in the face of the James Franco Calamity - "Here's an Oscar host" - except, well, isn't James Franco more of a Gregory Hines? He's a showman, not a comedian. Hell, give Franco a few lessons and he'll be tap dancing up a cyclone. The funniest line in "Running Scared" isn't even Billy's, it's Gregory's. "It's not the voltage that'll get ya. It's the amps."

Maybe Seth Rogen should be hosting the Oscars.


Wretched Genius said...

This is one of the rare occasions where we agree completely about a movie.

Fun Fact: as a child, this was the film that taught me what it meant to give someone the middle finger.

Nick Prigge said...

Hmmmmm. The film that taught me what the middle finger means. I'm not sure. Was there a middle finger in "The Flamingo Kid?"

Of course, it's possible I didn't learn what it meant from a movie and I've just reached a point where I assume all life lessons are learned from movies. Which might be bad.