Running Scared (1986)
Running Scared (1986)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: June 27th, 1986 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Peter Hyams Actors: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Steven Bauer, Darlanne Fluegel, Joe Pantoliano, Dan Hedaya, Tracy Reed, Jonathan Gries, Jimmy Smits




hooting hoops in Chicago while waiting for action leads to an on-foot chase to catch drug dealer Snake (Joe Pantoliano), a red-haired thug in possession of a briefcase stuffed with $50,000 in small bills. Police detectives Raymond Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) arrest him before coming upon a crime scene of a man who took a dive off a very tall building. The duo then takes Snake to the funeral of Danny’s Aunt Rose, where he briefly sees his ex-wife Anna (Darlanne Fluegel), followed by getting involved in an attempted armed robbery and an alleyway shootout with a fast car. Based on their attitudes, it’s just a regular – if uneventful – day on the job.

Hughes and Costanzo are after the top crime boss, Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits), a self-proclaimed godfather of Chicago, and unapologetically extort Snake into wearing a wire and conducting a buy. What they assume to be a cocaine purchase is actually the sale of Uzis – a transaction already infiltrated by undercover cops. Spoiling months of DEA work and embarrassing their district, despite apprehending Gonzales in the process, the law enforcers are unofficially put on vacation. With Danny’s recent inheritance, they decide to retire and invest in a bar in Key West, where they can soak up the sun and remain partners in a less dangerous profession. But when they hear of Gonzales’ release on bail, they vow to put him away for good – provided that they can catch him in the 30 days before they quit the force.

Crystal and Hines don’t have great chemistry, nor do they have a complementary repartee. Both seem as if they would be funnier by themselves; here, there’s no straight man to contrast. The two are not quite an odd couple, and their blatant disregard for the rules and continual shrugging off of danger is routinely more annoying than inspiring. They’re like Dirty Harry counterparts without the awesomeness, sincerity, or catchphrases. Graced with a bleak seriousness to their cooperation, which doesn’t seem like honest comedy as much as a dark cynicism for the deflection of considerable personal stresses, “Running Scared” almost dons the guise of a genuine thriller – with just a hint of comic relief – as opposed to a buddy-cop comedy.

Instead of being real heroes, this copper partnership accidentally saves the day – no thanks to skills, proper sleuthing, or teamwork. Generically, they’re commanded by a no-nonsense but unbelievably tolerant captain (Dan Hedaya as Logan), they awkwardly lose their pants in the line of duty, they conduct their affairs to a very ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, and they remain the butt of many jokes (as a marked source of humiliation for the department). “Don’t make me laugh. I don’t want to laugh,” insists Anna, who coincidentally voices the problem with this film’s approach to comedy. Instead of committing wholeheartedly to laugh-out-loud stunts and wisecracks, the film is grounded in a bitterly sarcastic reality, laden with a subtler, realistic approach to humor.

The lead roles jest and bicker as if for research and character development, rather than for the purposeful entertaining of audiences. Several scenes are dedicated solely to bursting into shabby apartments, guns blazing, without any care for procedures, caution, or a plan for nabbing hoods – or legitimate tension. And even the potential-filled training of contentious replacements or the repetitive harassment of love interests’ restraints are somehow completely devoid of apt enthusiasm. The result is flatness during the intended hilarity and equal dullness as action sequences, assassination attempts, and hostage situations play out. It’s an action-comedy hybrid that succeeds in neither genre.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10