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Monday, 20 February 2017

Retro Review: Running Scared (1986)

Running Scared
Cast: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Steven Bauer, Joe Pantoliano, Jimmy Smits 
Genre: Action Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $38.5 million 

Plot: Ray and Danny are the wild men of the windy city's police force. The pair's unorthodox methods get results in a tough town - until they come up against Julio Gonzales, a smooth-talking drug dealer, who is bucking to become Chicago's first Spanish Godfather. Trying to nail Gonzales, they blow a delicate undercover operation and are sent on a forced vacation to Key West - where they discover the good life of warm weather and warmer women. The new locale makes them decide to retire... but not before putting Gonzales behind bars first 

'Easy Going Buddy Cop Comedy, With Billy Crystal Showing He Has Flair As An Action Comedy Star'

Running Scared is a 1986 effort directed by Peter Hyams starring the team-up of comedic actor Billy Crystal and dancer, Gregory Hines as two Chicago cops, Danny Costanzo and Ray Hughes, who are on the trail of a Spanish drug lord. After they capture him, they go on vacation in the Key West, Florida & retire. When they return to Chicago, they find out that Gonzales has been released from jail, and the two try to recapture him.

The first time I watched this, I didn't like it that much because I expected this to be an out and out comedy and not like Lethal Weapon. Lethal Weapon was also an action-comedy, but it had plenty of action as well as quips, courtesy of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. But in giving it a second viewing and see to it as being a standard cop film, it worked and I also enjoyed as well. 

Whilst it never became to be the massive blockbuster smash as Lethal Weapon, Running Scared, did, however, introduce wider audiences to Billy Crystal and it helped launch his movie career, after many years as a stand-up comic on SNL (Saturday Night Live) and starring in the sitcom, Soap. After the release of Running Scared, he went one better with rom-com, When Harry Met Sally, which became an even bigger hit in 1989. 

Crystal and Hines are not so much like Gibson and Glover: in contrast, they are a lot more light-hearted, easy-going as a pairing, although they have a good bromance and they manage to make this partnership work. There is a naturalness to how they go about it that makes them a good fit for one another. The film's tone is slightly more akin to say, 48 Hours than Lethal Weapon, with the comedy being slightly more at the forefront than the action. It was apparent with their pairing that they were trying to mimic what 48 hrs did, which had comedian Eddie Murphy playing a protagonist role and to follow suit with Billy Crystal, another comedian, in that respect. Crystal plays it straight almost, but in a few instances where he utters a few amusing lines, and he makes for a very believable cop. 

And as '80s cop movies go, Running Scared is a fair reminder back in the day what they used to be like. On paper, the Hines and Crystal partnership looks out of place - yet thankfully, and rightly Crystal played it as the wise guy with light comedic touches and improvisation, alongside so-called straight man Hines. Had Crystal approached it in a buffoonish way or played it like Eddie Murphy's Reggie Hammond of 48 Hrs, it would have made Running Scared even sillier, which it needn't be.  

Running Scared is a film that deserved a sequel - I would've liked to have seen more from this duo and I think that a follow-up in the 1990s would've probably turned out better than this film. Although Hines died, and in that itself, the follow-up wouldn't have worked at all without him. 

Most of the comedy and humour doesn't much come from the punchlines but from Crystal's Danny Constanzo and Hines's Ray Hughes interacting with one another, acting like old buddies and things happening to them. The plot is your standard buddy cop guys getting on like pals. With scenes such as Danny and Ray roller skating and lounging on the beach, it is all so light-hearted and feel- good. The film works because of Crystal and Hines who gel so well together and provide some depth to the plot and by taking the two leads away, Running Scared would have very little going for it. The climactic last 5 mins of the film were good. 

Like with many of Billy Crystal's films, the film has lots of witty and sharp dialogue and relies less on farce and physical comedy in generating laughs. Regarding the action, it's very good and the set pieces are more than adequate for an action-comedy. Both Crystal and Hines handle the action sequences really well too. 

Final Verdict:

More comedy than action and as a buddy cop film, it's very standard in its setup & approach and the film's appeal is boosted by the presence of Hines and Crystal, although perhaps arguably more so by Crystal, who makes for a convincing cop and of whom assimilates into the role with ease. It would have been great to see him star in more action comedies because in watching him throughout, and like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, he seems to have a natural penchant for them.  

Though it's far from being in the same league as 48 Hrs, Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, Running Scared works, and director Peter Hyams, allows the leads to play their parts naturally and as they'd come across on-screen. If you go into this film and don't expect a lot of action and just go along for the ride, then I think you will enjoy Running Scared for the type of buddy cop comedy that it is trying to be not so alike; and in a way, with Crystal in the film, for me, he offers something different to the role that is so unlike any other. 

I definitely enjoyed this one, second time around; the more I stuck with the film, the more I grew to like it. 

Hardly groundbreaking, what it lacks in true grit and lots of action, it makes up for its feel-good factor; that along with the performances by Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal makes Running Scared a solid and admirable 80s buddy cop comedy that is lighter in tone and approach, and is fun and somewhat enjoyable in places. 


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