Monday, September 12, 2016
RUNNING SCARED (1986)
(June 1986, U.S.)
It would seem that during the decade of the 1980s, cop partners in the movies were meant to make us laugh. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, Tom Hanks and Beasley the ugly and slobbery Dogue de Bordeaux (dog); really, how could you have possibly taken these men seriously (and one dog) in these specific roles? Well, I suppose that Mel and Danny got pretty serious in their work sometimes, but it was the brilliant wit and spontaneous dialogue between them (and some of the others mentioned) that held our attention during the course of these various action/comedies. So perhaps it was the (very) unlikely casting of funnymen Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as Chicago cops that caught my attention the most when this film was released (though I wouldn't see it until months later during a college screening). Hines wasn't just funny (see Mel Brook's HISTORY OF THE WORLD-PART I), but he was an extraordinary dancer, too (his previous screen role being Taylor Hackford's WHITE NIGHTS with Mikhail Baryshnikov). So I suppose as cops with guns charged with keeping the streets safe, the pairing of these two is certainly questionable. As wise-ass and highly unorthodox cops who are constantly egging each other on in various situations of crime and danger, it works perfectly. Even the plot itself of RUNNING SCARED is pretty thin as the two of them commit themselves to hunting down and capturing kingpin drug dealer Julio Gonzales (played by Jimmy Smits in his screen debut). This narcotics case hardly has any of the complexities that were in William Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). This is a cop movie of pure wise-cracking antics by two men who are looking to just get through their lives without getting shot.
The buddy cop movie, in general, is a textbook of clichés, including the police captain who's constantly chastising his men for their repeated sloppiness and overall fuck-ups, even when they result in something positive. I think it's when Danny and Ray (Billy and Gregory) finally go on their vacation to Key West, Florida that the interest level rises because we're getting a better sense of both men's characters when they're not risking their lives for a profession neither of them seem particularly committed to. The montage alone of their glorious times in the sun with multiple women to the popular tune of Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" (I still love that song!) is enough to make you starting dialing your travel agent right away. And can you really picture these t-shirts on any other guys...?
I have to give them both credit for trying to look like genuine tough guys with the dark glasses and the facial hair. But I'm afraid they're both just too damn funny to be considered real bad-ass cops, in my opinion! The traditional clichés also include the textbook car chase, though I must admit this one looks better than some; it actually looks like a car was riding on the subway tracks while filming! In the end, of course, the bad guy Gonzales is killed and our two men come out heroes, though it's just too bad they decide not to go back to Key West and open up their dream bar (Danny does get his wife back, though). At the end of the film, one would have presumed an instant sequel after the antics of these two wise-asses were a good enough box office success. Alas, it never happened. I think I was actually disappointed at the time.
RUNNING SCARED may not exactly define the buddy cop movie is it's meant to be, should be or the way we wish it would be. I suppose that determination depends on who you like best in the respective roles (see names above). The film is just a whole lot of fun, considering it came from Peter Hyams who, by then, I'd come to associate more with science tales like CAPRICORN ONE (1978), OUTLAND (1981), 2010 (1984) and TIMECOP (1994). Still, fun is more than enough for me.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Ray Hughes (watching Danny and Anna kissing): "What about that dentist?"
Anna Costanzo: "Who?"
Ray (smiling): "Right!"