Saturday, 22 January 2011

Running Scared (1986)

... when not playing a sensual form of 1-on-1 b-ball with the local pachucos, they’re busy passive-aggressively hassling the remainder of the Windy City’s rather broadly rendered Hispanic community with extreme prejudice and seeming impunity...

Running Scared (1986, Peter Hyams)

Starring: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Stephen Bauer, Darlanne Fluegel, Dan Hedaya, Joe Pantoliano, Jimmy Smits, Etel Billig, Bob Zrna, Natividad Rios Kearsley

Box Notables: Lavish silver MGM box. Reversible cover 'option'

Tagline: They've got 30 days to clean up Chicago before they retire to paradise... Losing their police car, their suspect, and their pants is a reeeeeeaaaaal bad start!’

Trailers: Walk Like a Man, Solarbabies, Dead of Winter

Cherrypick: “Waddya expect? I'm a paisano! What do you want me to do, cook you up a pot of ragu? Sweat garlic for you? Sing an opera? Lose a war?”

Shine, sweet freedom,” beseeches housewives’ choice Michael MacDonald over a hyperbolically gritty opening sequence that paints the bleak splendour of downtown Chicago as a scarred and snowbound Beirut entirely populated with pickpockets, peddlers and pimps, “Shine your light on me.” So confident a juxtaposition of music and image is reminiscent of the work of the young Nicolas Roeg, or, moreover, Scorsese in his pomp, and it hints, much like one of Marty’s deranged Catholic fantasies, at the redemption, deliverance and even rebirth that this testing film will ultimately grant its pair of beleaguered Jobs.
Cook Pass Babtridge
Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal play Ray Hughes and Danny Costanzo, a couple of Chi-Town’s finest - and most emphatically heterosexual - police detectives. When not playing a sensual form of 1-on-1 b-ball with the local pachucos, they’re busy passive-aggressively hassling the remainder of the Windy City’s rather broadly rendered Hispanic community with extreme prejudice and seeming impunity – all the while disgorging an incessant stream of what we are presuming is meant to be tough-guy male life-partner banter but is in fact a numbing white noise of witless, discontinuous drivel.

Make no mistake though - these guys are street!

So they both might live in vast, achingly tasteful exposed-brick loft spaces, drink Virgin Marys and share a badass lexicon that extends no further than referring to everyone as either a “douchebag” or a “jag-off”, but they are nevertheless seen by their grizzled but benign Captain (Dan Hedaya) as the go-to guys when mysterious neighbourhood drug Tsar, Gonzales (Jimmy Smits, hang your head), is rumoured to be taking delivery of a consignment of high-grade ‘shit’ down at the (sigh) docks. Even though they manage to take Gonzales down, the camp coppers are still somehow adjudged to have made a total pig’s ear of the bust by blowing some big Drug Enforcement Agency investigation or other. Consequently packed off on enforced vacation, they merrily goose each other all they way down to Key West, Florida for some sun, sea and sexual dilletantism…
Boob Jobs
Now, the observant amongst you will, no doubt, have already noticed a certain growing similarity between our film and Bryan Singer’s brainy 1995 potboileur, The Useless Suspects: the DEA, an abortive quayside drug buy; Dan Hedaya as a gnarly old desk jockey; an exotic, enigmatic Kingpin; the unexpected remove to sunnier climes; regular Joes caught up in a Kafkaesque cyclone of those unnameable cabalistic forces that claim suzerainty over God’s holy providence and shall most assuredly deliver us all into the maw of an ancient, preternatural evil, oh yea!

But whereas Suspects - although the weaker film when taken as a whole - had the strength of conviction to set the controls for the heart of the sun and sentence its protagonists to meet their inescapable doom in the eternal brackish fires of an increasingly kaleidoscopic LA that mirrored the moral turpitude of their souls, Scared simply subjects our boys to an extended scuba montage before whisking them back to the Second City for further bickering and some more mad shootouts. Rollerskating semi-nude down Muscle Beach may have been diverting, but it’s no substitute for the musty allure of the locker room, especially not when they learn that that douchebag Mendoza, sorry – Gonzales, has walked on some bullshit technicality…
Guns by suppertime!
It’s not long before their entire, surreal Floridian interlude has been swept under the carpet and Ray And Danny are back on the beat and dishing out their particularly high-handed brand of lone justice to the films progressively deplorable depiction of the Latino Experience - every conniving member of which would appear to be a gang-banging recidivist, a strung-out crack whore or a trigger-happy punk in a bandana – as they attempt to track down “Meester Beeg”. None of this, of course, is racism – God bless you no; it’s merely ethnic ‘flavour’. Luckily for us – and the self-regard of the entire Hispano demographic of Illinois - the end is in sight. Only a couple of mandatory ERH boxes left to tick… 

A truly bizarre car-chase along the tracks of the El-Train in their squad car – a customised, bulletproof taxicab (?) - and an interminably protracted Uzi showdown in an empty shopping centre later and Gonzales is riding a blood spattered escalator to heaven/menswear while a sub-Roberta Flack soundtrack-dolly belts out top-forty sure-thing ‘Show me (What a man-size love is!)’ and our boys cavort around in their long-johns.


Originally published in Little White Lies#27

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