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"Speaking of movies that go over the top, "Running Scared" goes so far over the top, it circumnavigates the top and doubles back on itself; it's the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness. I am in awe. It throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Then it throws in the kitchen sink, too, and the combo washer-dryer in the laundry room, while the hero and his wife are having sex on top of it."—Roger Ebert
The movie begins with Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) driving with a boy, Oleg Yugorsky (Cameron Bright). Oleg has a blood stain on his shirt, implying that he had been shot. The movie then flashes back eighteen hours before the unfolding scene. Joey, a low-level mafioso, is attending a drug deal with his boss Tommy and associate Sal when a trio of masked men burst in and try to steal the drugs and money. When Tommy shoots one of the hoods, a shootout commences in which all the drug dealers and two of the hoods are killed, forcing their leader to flee. Tommy then discovers that the men were Dirty Cops. As the mobsters flee in a panic, Tommy gives the murder weapons to Joey, telling him to get rid of them.
Rather than dispose of the guns, Joey goes home to his wife Teresa and son Nicky, and hides the guns in the basement while Nicky and his friend from next door, Oleg, secretly watch. Oleg returns home to his abusive stepfather, Anzor Yugorsky, the outcast nephew of the Russian mob boss, Ivan Yugorsky, and battered mother, Mila. When Anzor becomes belligerent towards Oleg, Oleg shoots him with a nickel-plated .38 that he had stolen from Joey's basement. Next door, the Gazelle family is disrupted by the gunshots and Joey rushes next door. He finds Anzor wounded, and Oleg gone. When Anzor describes the weapon to Joey, he realizes that Oleg had stolen one of the murder weapons, and rushes out in a frantic search to find Oleg and the gun.
Oleg runs to a nearby park, where he is caught by a homeless man, who takes his gun and drags him to a drug dealer's den. Joey and Nicky follow, trying to find him. The criminals then fire on each other, alerting Joey and giving Oleg time to escape with the gun. Oleg runs until he finds a pimp named Lester smacking around one of his prostitutes, Divina. When Lester pulls a knife, Oleg pulls his gun on him. But when he tried to fire, he finds the gun empty. However, the prostitute knocks Lester unconscious and, as she prepares to run, notices Oleg coughing. Indebted to him, she takes him to a pharmacy to get him an inhaler. When the pharmacist refuses, she draws the gun and gets the inhaler at gunpoint.
Not to be confused with the 1986 comedy, "Running Scared", starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.
- Action Girl: Teresa, who gets a Crowning Moment of Awesome when she deals with the pedophile couple.
- Atomic F-Bomb: Joey gets an awesome one after following a Red Herring.
- Badass: Pretty much everyone.
- Badass Adorable: Teresa.
- Blast Out: Frequent, almost to the point of being a running gag.
- Cluster F-Bomb: This movie is in either fourth or fifth place as far as total amount used.
- Cool Gun: The snub-nosed piece the whole movie revolves around.
- Country Matters
- Cultural Cringe: Anzor is a John Wayne fanboy and actually rather dislikes his homeland's culture.
- Disney Death: Joey at the end.
- Lampshaded; Nicky asks what was in the coffin, and Joey replies that it must have been a few of their rival hockey team's players.
- Driven to Suicide: Mila.
- Hidden Wire
- High-Pressure Blood: Frequently used.
- Lady Macbeth: Played by Elizabeth Mitchell.
- Moral Guardians: A game on the movie's website included a lot of violence and a scene of oral sex. Naturally, Christian groups got upset about this. The sex was removed, then when the movie flopped, the whole game was yanked.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The hockey rink shootout begins with Joey getting seven shades of shit beaten out of him.
- Pimp Duds: Lester.
- Precision F-Strike: "John Wayne was a faggot." A relatively mild swear, but coming from a 10-year-old boy who has very little dialogue, none of which has any cursing otherwise...
- R-Rated Opening: The opening, where about eight people die extremely brutal deaths, is proof positive that the movie you're watching is in no way safe for children.
- Reconstruction: the whole film is basically a scary fairy tale about a boy who ran to The Lost Woods and met numerous monsters, including The Big Bad Wolf and a witch living in a Gingerbread House. Credits make sure you got the reference with animated sequence showing boy's misadventures in that light.
- Refuge in Audacity: This movie has pedophiliac serial-killing pornographers as a subplot.
- Serial Killer
- The local hockey team's slogan of "Red ice!" may be a reference to the Detroit Red Wings.
- Lester makes a reference to Scarface at the end, which Joey mocks him for.