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Running Scared

Kino // R // December 9, 2014
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted December 19, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Directed by Peter Hyams for MGM and written by Gary DeVore in 1986, Running Scared is the story of two Chicago police detectives, Ray Hughes (Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Crystal). As is often the case with eighties movie cops, Hughes and Costanzo tend to bend the rules a bit, but they get the job done and for that reason, they get away with a bit more than they should. Despite the occasional lawsuit levied at the department on their behalf, their boss, Captain Logan (Dan Hedaya), he trusts them enough to train some new recruits and to take on a high profile case: Julio Gonzalez (Jimmy Smits). Julio is out to take over the city's underground cocaine trade and he's ambitious enough to make that happen.

Hughes and Costanza, however, are up for the challenge. They know there's more to this than just a greedy coke dealer doing this thing, because every time they bust him and it seems like a sure fire conviction, the next day he's out on the street again. After one such incident, the guys are undercover checking out a basketball game when they see a known crook named Snake (Joe Pantoliano) make a deal with Gonzalez. They chase them down and a nasty shoot-out occurs, at which point Logan really has no choice but to force the two hot headed cops to go on a vacation. Things need to cool down before they can go back on the streets. He knows it, and they know it. So as buddy cops do in buddy cop movies, they take off for a little R&R together to the sandy beaches of Florida. Of course, once they get away from it all, they start to like it, and when they find the money to buy a dive bar, once they return to Chicago it's to give notice. With only a few weeks until they're off the force, the two cops make it a point to bust Gonzalez for good, but that's not going to be easy, particularly once Costanzo's ex-wife, Anna (Darlanne Fluegel), gets pulled into things in a bad way.

Like a lot of buddy cop movies made before and after, Running Scared isn't so concerned with crafting realistic situations or capturing the gritty, dangerous life of a cop in the big city so much as it is in creating likeable characters and creating tension, and often times humor, from putting them into situations both dangerous and ridiculous. The script from DeVore, no stranger to tough guy movies having written both Raw Deal and The Dogs Of War earlier in the decade, offers ample opportunity for both of those criteria to play out while Hyams' assured and sometimes fairly stylish direction and approach to visual storytelling ensures that it all plays out at quick and snappy pace and that it looks good too. Add to that some great location photography that creates an interesting urban environment for the Chicago scenes to play off of and some interesting contrast from the genuinely relaxed, chilled out vibe of many of the Florida scenes and the movie stays intriguing to the eye.

As far as the likeable characters aspect of the equation is concerned, Crystal and the late Hines not only handle this really well, but they make it look easy. They had a great chemistry together in this picture, the kind that ensures we have no problem buying them not only as partners but as friends too. There's a warmth and a sense of genuine humor to their snappy banter and playful style and they really make this work. Supporting performances from the seemingly always crotchety Dan Hedaya and a weasely Joe Pantoliano are also a lot of fun and help to round out the cast while a young Jimmy Smits makes a really good villain in the film. As solid as the directing and the script are, the cast are every bit as good and every bit as important to making this work, and make this work they do. Running Scared is a really fun, entertaining buddy cop movie, a classic of the genre.

The Blu-ray:


Running Scared arrives on Blu-ray from Kino in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer from in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35.1. There is a bit of obvious film grain here, as you'd expect, but for the most part the source used for this transfer is otherwise very clean. In fact, there's virtually no print at all. Some scenes do look softer than others, and that does appear to be a stylistic choice, but color reproduction is strong and while skin tones look lifelike and accurate. The image is free of any compression artifacts and there aren't any noise reduction problems or edge enhancement issues to gripe about. Detail and texture both quite strong and black levels are good. Shadow detail is also pretty strong here. The picture quality here is top notch.


The only audio option for the feature is an English language Stereo track presented in DTS-HD lossless format. There are no alternate language options but English subtitles are provided. There are no issues here, this track is just fine. Everything is nicely balance and there is good depth and range throughout playback. You'll really notice the enhancements that the lossless audio offer the musical choices used in the movie, as they sound quite warm and authentic. Dialogue also sounds very good as do sound effects. There are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note.


Extras on the disc start off with a new director's commentary track courtesy of Peter Hyam where the director starts off by noting that he hasn't watched this movie since it was first made. Regardless, his memory is as sharp as a tack and he does a great job of detailing the shoot and what it was like working with the leads and supporting players alike. He tells some interesting stories about shooting the film on location in Chicago and also shares his thoughts on the effectiveness of certain scenes, the use of music in the film and his admiration of the performances and the quality of the script. He also discusses quite a bit of the technical details of filmmaking on this track too, and as he worked as cinematographer on this movie as well as director, he's got quite a bit to say about lighting, shot composition and similar aspects of the production. It's a fun commentary and an informative one as well. Hyams comes off as laid back and likeable and he proves to be a good storyteller too.

Kino has also included a quick seven minute featurette called On Locations which is basically a short promotional piece made for TV broadcast to hype of the movie's theatrical run. Hyams appears here to talk up the film as do a few other participants. We also get a few minutes of Billy Crystal outtakes, some brief EPK scenes in fullframe format made again for television promotion, a theatrical trailer, static menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Running Scared benefits from great direction and a fun script but what really makes this one of the best buddy cop movies of the eighties are the performances and remarkable on-screen chemistry shared by Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. They really make this one a memorable film and Kino has done right by the picture with this Blu-ray offering it up in excellent condition and with some decent extras, highlighted by Hyams' interesting commentary track. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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Highly Recommended

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