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MGM Studios DVD presents
Running Scared (1986)

Danny: "Why weren't we on that track?"
Ray: "Oh, now you're going to criticize my driving?"
Danny: "Well, it's just that you get to do all the dangerous stuff, and I get to parallel park."

- Danny (Billy Crystal) and Ray (Gregory Hines)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: October 08, 2001

Stars: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hinds
Other Stars: Steven Bauer, Jimmy Smits, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Peter Hyams

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for language, violence
Run Time: 01h:46m:44s
Release Date: October 02, 2001
UPC: 027616867780
Genre: action comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BB- C+

DVD Review

Somewhere there is a shrine dedicated to the Hollywood writer who devised the idea of a buddy picture. You know the ones of which I speak, where two cops from opposite backgrounds team together to solve a big case while dealing with irate captains and family problems. This type of picture has become a staple of the cinematic landscape and more often than not each movie featuring the buddy formula results in a forgettable mess. Often the films give way to clíches and uninteresting chemistry between the two lead actors, as only a handful have risen above and delivered a lasting impression upon viewers.

Aside from the wonderful Lethal Weapon series, to me only one other film in the genre has succeeded more than it has failed. Released in 1986 with only moderate success ($38.5 million), Running Scared (in my opinion the best buddy picture ever made ) failed to garner the financial and critical success Lethal Weapon would achieve just one year later.

Julio Gonzalez (Smits) is aiming to be the first Spanish godfather in the history of the city of Chicago. After serving a three-year stint in Joliet he is released only to run into the two cops who put him in prison the last time around. The two are Ray (Hines) and Danny (Crystal), two undercover detectives in Chicago yearning for a change of pace. The two are in their last few days on the force before they retire and open a bar in Key West when Gonzalez comes back into their lives.

Running Scared certainly won't win any awards for creativity, yet there is so much energy originating from the lead actors that the burden of a recycled plot doesn't make much of a difference. Director Peter Hyams wisely allows Hines and Crystal to become the focus of the movie, so much that his direction seems almost a side note. That is not to say that Hyams doesn't do a fine job of crafting some very tense action sequences. From a chase on the El to the climactic battle in the Thompson building (then the State of Illinois Building) Hyams continually provides terrific set pieces.

Hyams also acts as his own cinematographer for Running Scared and it is evident that the one time Chicago resident knows just what a cold winter in the Windy City can look like. Hyams uses blues and grays to relay the feeling of a bleak Chicago winter so well that anyone who has ever lived in the city will no doubt relate. I have seen Chicago on film numerous times and can honestly say that Hyams crafts one of the best representations of the city ever on film.

On several occasions the rapid-fire dialogue between Crystal and Hines becomes the star of the movie as the plot and action each take a back seat. Crystal, not surprisingly, has many of the picture's best lines and has the comic timing to make them work. Hines, not known for his comedic side before making Running Scared, is successful in his role. Though it is hard to say whether Hines' acting skills are the reason for his fine performance or the fact that he creates the right kind of character to match Crystal's more humorous side.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Featuring a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, this film has never looked better. Having only seen the film on VHS previously I was amazed at just how well this picture looks in anamorphic widescreen. The muted grays and blues of Chicago look fine, although there is excessive grain on several occasions. In several scenes the picture has a hazy look, though this may be the director's intent. Edge enhancement is noticeable in several scenes though it is not enough to cause worry. Perhaps it is just because this was the first time I have seen a widescreen transfer of one of my favorite films, but this 15-year-old film looks great.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English and Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: MGM has decided not to offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for Running Scared, making the Dolby 2-channel track a bit of a disappointment. Dialogue sounds fine throughout with only one scene where the center channel has a slight bit of harshness. Surround use is limited to the score and some isolated ambient sounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: 5 minutes of outtakes featuring Billy Crystal, as well as a theatrical trailer, are the only extra features available for this DVD of Running Scared.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Running Scared is considered a classic amongst my family members. It is one of my mothers' favorite films, and that sentiment has rubbed off onto my brother and I. It is far from being original, yet the performances by Crystal and Hines make this a terrific picture. Runing Scared is the sort of film that you want to watch over and over, or in the case of my family, to quote over and over.


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