Running Scared (1986)
While it’s not quite as much fun to watch nowadays, Running Scared is still a sorely neglected action comedy that holds up as one of many great buddy cop movies to come from the 1980s. Of course, many buddy cop movies have since been overshadowed and neglected thanks to the greatness of Lethal Weapon, but it’s worth noting that Running Scared came along before that modern classic. It wasn’t the first, not by a long shot, but it was a very good indicator of the many that would come along after it.
Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines play Danny and Ray, respectively, two Chicago cops who spend just as much time wisecracking as they do chasing down bad guys. They seem to live a pretty charmed life, judging by the risks they take and how they remain alive. But that might all change when they bust a small crook (Joe Pantoliano) in order to get to a man who is trying to set himself up as the new crime boss in town (Jimmy Smits). The Captain (Dan Hedaya) wants his guys to stay safe, but shows that most of the time by shouting at the, two younger cops (Jon Gries and Steven Bauer) are supposed to be shown the ropes but end up being given the runaround, and Danny has an ex-wife (Darlanne Fluegel) who clearly still has feelings for him.
Competently directed by Peter Hyams, and competently scripted by Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston, it would be easy to say that Running Scared remains an enjoyable bit of entertainment purely because of the chemistry between Crystal and Hines, but that’s not fair. First of all, almost every other part is well cast, with Smits making a particularly enjoyable villain. Second, this is an action comedy that really gets the mix right. The opening scenes in which the two cops deal with Pantoliano quickly show what a pair of smartasses the leads are, but there are also some good shoot outs, and a standout car chase along an elevated railway line that remains a fantastic set-piece. And let’s not forget a finale that is as entertaining and full of gunfire as it is ridiculous and, ultimately, pointless.
If you like any of the main cast members, or if you like buddy cop movies, then you should be easily entertained by Running Scared. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s certainly still more entertaining than many other movies that came along with a high-concept and not much else.
DIRECTOR: PETER HYAMS
WRITER: GARY DEVORE, JIMMY HUSTON
STARS: BILLY CRYSTAL, GREGORY HINES, JIMMY SMITS, DAN HEDAYA, DARLANNE FLUEGEL, JOE PANTOLIANO, JON GRIES, STEVEN BAUER, TRACY REED, DON CALFA
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX