From Michael Cudlitz

Running Scared Runs (Too) Wild on Crime

Running Scared. 2006. Directed & Written by Wayne Kramer.
Starring Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Karel Roden, Johnny Messner, Ivana Milicevic, Alex Neuberger, Michael Cudlitz, Bruce Altman, Elizabeth Mitchell, Arthur J. Nascarella, John Noble, Idalis DeLeon, & David Warshofsky. New Line Cinema/Media 8 Entertainment/True Grit Productions.
Rated 18A. 122 minutes.
Action/Crime/Drama

★★★
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I’m not a Paul Walker fan, there are only a couple movies I enjoy with him in it. This being one. He was never a bad actor, just never picked the greatest projects. Running Scared gives him a significantly meaty role into which he could chew. On top of that the entire story and its plots are super fun. This is part personal drama, part chase film, part mob movie, and more. You’ve got action, crime, lots of drama. If anything there’s almost too much involved throughout the screenplay. This is actually a great little flick, one destined for more cult status as the years wear on. Part of its flaws lie in the wild nature of the writing, the over-the-top elements get a bit tiresome. Part of its excitement also lie in the very same thing. So this movie remains a good example of when weird gets a little out of hand. Despite the nonsense, Running Scared gets exciting, thrilling, even slightly disturbing. There’s no getting past the flaws, sadly. What might have ended up a solid action-crime flick gets too convoluted for its own good, never able to grab that foothold necessary to climb past its bored trappings. While I can throw this on for fun I’m not able, or willing, to say this is anything more than a guilty pleasure. A cotton candy action movie. Lots of crime to boot. A ton of characters with quirks doesn’t make up for lack of character development and a story that’s always rushing, trying to do good on everything it’s missing. I want to love it, I do. Walker does well with his role, as do Vera Farmiga, young Cameron Bright, among others such as the always charming Chazz Palminteri. The action is a thrill, the story’s got provocative ins and outs. There’s no coming together of all the good aspects. By the finale you’re only wondering where all the potential went.
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My favourite touches…
Anzor (Karel Roden) represents the failure of the American Dream. When he talks about seeing John Wayne in The Cowboys originally it was on 8mm and they cut out the hero’s death, as it was for children. Upon coming to America, he sees the real version where Wayne’s character dies, shot, walking away. This is the perfect exemplification of that realization by an immigrant coming to the U.S., that all that idea of the American Dream is merely smoke and mirrors, it’s a fake, a movie, a plot like any other in a made up movie. It all speaks to his own situation, a Russian coming to the States, ending up as a criminal on the streets involved with guns, drugs, and everything else in that realm.
The whole structure of the story is excellent, even if the film as a whole doesn’t pay off on all the cheques it cashes via several different plot threads. For instance, the multi-layered plot involving Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) working for the mob and having to hide the gun, the gun gets taken by Oleg (Cameron Bright) and gets used on Anzor triggering his paranoia, in turn triggering a sketchy situation for Joey with his mob pal Tommy (Johnny Messner) and his father, Boss Frankie Perello (Arthur J. Nascarella), all of that sending poor Oleg out on the run where he goes from one dangerous situation to the next, travelling between scary locations, each worse than the last. So within all that there are these nice mini-chases between set piece after set piece. Cool enough. Joey gets thrown around the city and this makes for an interesting journey through the streets of, funny enough, Prague, though the setting is more somewhere like New York or New Jersey. With nothing ultimately interesting enough to carry things completely through, we’re left with just a bunch of connected scenes that feel as if they could’ve made up two movies. There aren’t enough pieces to make a whole puzzle, only little bits that connect, but only in the sense they’ve got all the same characters involved. This is a typical mob movie that tries to be more, ending in a mashed up slop by the finish of its overly long runtime.
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My biggest issue with the film is there’s no real character development in any of the characters. Sure, we do get revelations concerning our lead. Other than that it’s barely non-existent. The characters themselves are incredibly interesting. However, there’s never any time to flesh them out. We’re far too busy riding along and zipping through various landscapes, locations, different oddball settings. There’s a little bit of style, as far as the look of the film is concerned. This is neither unique enough, nor flashy enough to keep our minds distracted from the bunched up plots and the various characters tossed into the middle of them. In fact, the greatest development out of any character is saved for a feeble plot twist last in the game. Something that could’ve been used to much better effect were it given up early on. That way, more development would have come from that one point. Instead, it’s a forgettable end to a middle of the road story.
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The one thing that saves this aside from those few interesting portions I mentioned is the cinematography from Jim Whitaker, whose work includes Thank You for Smoking and director Wayne Kramer’s The Cooler, as well as other titles. Whitaker makes the look of the film sort of glossy. All the same things are kept ugly, gritty, matching the dirty cop/criminal plot playing out. In that visual aesthetic, Running Scared is able to stay captivating most of the time, even if it’s lacking in fairly significant areas such as the development of characters. You can find plenty to enjoy with the weird characters, just don’t expect that to go anywhere further. The plot is decent, though again, it never gets anywhere because saving such a juicy reveal for its finale takes away potential power. Still, throw this on if you’re looking to pass the time with a few thrills, a chill tossed in for good measure. The action and the weirdness won’t make this a classic, shooting the whole movie in its foot because of excess. You’ll be able to find something to dig, not every fun movie has to be a masterpiece after all.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 12: “Not Tomorrow Yet”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 12: “Not Tomorrow Yet”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Seth Hoffman

* For a review of the previous episode, “Knots Untie” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Same Boat” – click here


This episode begins with Carol (Melissa McBride) in the civilized society of Hilltop, getting food ready, looking through what food they’ve already got on hand. In the woods, she keeps her killing game strong. When she sprays herself with blood – no worries, there’s a bunch of fresh shirts at home. She brings some cookies to Tobin (Jason Douglas) made from beet and acorn: “Theyre amazing,” he tells her after being coaxed into one.In pulls Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and the others. When Carol asks what’s happening, Rick only tells her: “Were gonna have to fight.”
Out comes Morgan (Lennie James). He and Carol have a chat about what he did, re: the last Wolf. She’s obviously more concerned about what Rick said than anything. The time for baking cookies is over.
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Rick holds an Alexandria town meeting. He lays out the problem with The Saviors, including their run-in with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and Daryl (Norman Reedus). Along with him is Jesus (Tom Payne). Rick talks about the deal, the food they’d receive. Nobody seems to object. Yet Morgan alone stands up and asks if Rick is “sure” whether or not they can beat this Negan and The Saviors. Democracy prevails, as Rick says it’s everyone’s choice. Aaron (Ross Marquand) says he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent another massacre in their town.
Carol sits alone with a book she keeps. Recorded with how many people she’s killed; she circles the number 18. We’re starting to see the other side of Carol we’ve not seen in a long time. One who is remorseful and pensive. Carol talks with Tobin who believes her strength comes from being a mother, taking care of others and capable of doing anything necessary; things he says “terrify” him. He cares for her, and they share a kiss.


Rick: “We kill them all
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Abraham and Rosita (Christian Serratos) argue, as he walks out on her. Harshly, he ends their relationship; clearly in love with Sasha. So sad Abraham handled it this way. Meanwhile, Tara (Alanna Masterson) says the three magic words to Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merrit Wever), and they’re simply afraid to lose each other with the upcoming journey and mission towards Negan.
At the same time, Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl and Rick get a map drawn for them into Savior territory. The plan is set. Or is it?
With the group out on the road, little groups are splitting up to canvas the area. Rosita and Carol have a chat about the Wolf situation. But we know Rosita has other issues happening. Glenn and Heat (Corey Hawkins) talk about “killing someone“, getting more of the sense of how humanity changes the further people get into the zombie apocalypse.
Soon, Rick outlines what they’re about to do, and they agree to just have a look, check things out. If things look ripe for the taking, they go: “This is how we eat,” says Rick. To the side, Carol tells Rick that Maggie ought not be out there with them; at all. Probably a good point, Carol.
The plan involves bringing The Saviors the head of Gregory. They find a proper walker head, which Rick has to punch a good deal to make look appropriate. Then they’re off. We get a glimpse of The Saviors. Creepy, intimidating dudes. That is until Daryl slits one of their throats, and the operation really gets underway.


The savagery of this episode is incredible. Between the macabre Johny Depp-mold they used for  one of the fake Gregory heads, to the sequence where Rick and the others bust into the territory of The Saviors – tons of knives to the head. Everything is gruesome, yet so much is offscreen horror. Brutal and vicious, but not in the sense of showing everything. Worst of all is seeing Glenn first put a knife through a guy’s head, the look on his face is devastating. But like the man he is, prevents Heath from having to do the same, and takes another one for the team.
Abraham and Sasha get ambushed by a man. They kill him, but not before he throws the switch to an alarm. Out on watch, Carol refuses to let Maggie go and help; is this a different side of Carol emerging? One dedicated to life?
Inside the complex a gun battle erupts. Rick and his crew fight for their lives. Blood and bone flies. People are shot, stabbed, beaten to death. Corpses litter the corridors, blood stains everything.
In Alexandria, Morgan is busy building what looks like a cage. Is he going to do what was done to him? Will he try putting Rick in there? Or is possibly for Negan, intended to be a better alternative to murder? We’ll see.
Once the smoke clears, Michonne wonders “which one was Negan” and Rick sort of shrugs. One last person a motorcycle clues the group into someone watching, talking on a radio. And they’ve got Carol. Maggie, too.


The next episode, “The Same Boat”, is bound to be exciting. There could be some trobles ahead. Some very terrifying troubles at that.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 11: “Knots Untie”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 11: “Knots Untie”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Next World” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Not Tomorrow Yet” – click here


Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) give us a bit of enjoyable banter to start this new episode. Their relationship is a whole lot of fun, two very different yet like-minded individuals. A new watch post is starting, with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) taking Sasha’s place alongside Abraham. He doesn’t appear to want that at all. Then we cut to him waking up next to Rosita (Christian Serratos). Everything with the zombies going on, and then they’re all still dealing with real life issues from before: love, relationships, jealousy, falling out of love. The zombie apocalypse makes life shit, but even worse is the fact that humans are the worst part about it all, deep down.
In the garden, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) do some gardening. They’re hoping crops will grow. Meanwhile, there’s a panic on the street.
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Cut to Jesus (Tom Payne) sitting on the steps outside Rick and Michonne’s (Andrew Lincoln/Danai Gurira) room. Then Carl (Chandler Riggs) pulls a gun on him. The kid also learns about his “mom and dad” hooking up. Uh oh. Well, everyone shows up now, Rick shirtless, Michonne, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the rest arrive.
We find out now that Jesus is from a settlement. They grow crops, and they’re a lot like Rick’s group. Turns out they trade… with other people.
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Jesus: “Your worlds about to get a whole lot bigger
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Preparing to head out and see what Jesus has to offer, Rick tells Carl about him and Michonne, that he would have said something regardless, only it literally “just happened” that night. But Carl’s fine, like any understanding young fella.
On the ride out, Abraham asks Glenn, roundabout, whether or not him and Maggie were intending to make babies. Glenn tells him: “Were trying to build something.” Along the road, the crew find an overturned car, zombified corpses already hanging out the side, screaming. Rick immediately holds Jesus at gunpoint. Nobody is playing around at this point, not in any given situation. They’re always on guard. Although, Jesus looks worried for his people; Maggie stays behind holding a gun on him, hands tied behind his back, as the others investigate further inside a nearby building.
Inside, Rick, Abraham, Glenn, Daryl and Michonne find several people who they help out and into the R.V. The people have medication which they’re bringing back. One of them happens to be a doctor. This group also has their sad stories. Soon enough, though, Jesus brings them to their community: Hilltop. The perimeter is lined by large wooden posts, almost like an old pre-18th century settlement. Very cool.
Except at the gates, those guarding it get antsy about Rick’s group having weapons. Jesus calms the situation. Even convinces Rick to trust them, allowing them to keep their weapons rather than giving them over. Inside, it’s very much like a 1700s settlement, with a few modern touches. Supplies from a power company made things a little easier. Barrington House sits in the middle of it all, a historic house preserved, which they built Hilltop around. They’ve also got trailers on the land. We meet Gregory (Xander Berkeley), the boss of the whole operation. He tells them to wash up, then they’ll meet. On the way to get clean, Rick tells Maggie to go first then talk with Gregory – when she asks why, he advises: “I shouldnt.”


When Maggie does meet with Gregory, he talks about the museum, the historic site of the house. She grills him about how they’ve managed to survive. Jesus told Gregory about the group’s situation. Gregory comes on a little too strong, treating her like she’s got nothing to offer. Unfortunately, it seems like Gregory doesn’t want what they’re offering – mostly ammunition.
Jesus hopes to help the group. He wants “a few days“, which they agree to.
Then there’s problems with Negan. Gregory’s people come back, without a couple friends. Then one of them stabs Gregory. Hell breaks loose. Daryl breaks an arm. Abraham is almost choked to death. Rick has a knife to is throat, but manages to stab the guy holding it through his neck. More guns are drawn on Rick. Yet Jesus diffuses the situation.
Later Rick asks more about Negan – head of “The Saviors” and a nasty dude. Appears there’s no messing with Negan, a man who beat a 16-year-old kid to death in front of Jesus and their group, to make them “understand” immediately. Hilltop is forced to give half of their supplies (et cetera) over to Negan. Daryl is more than willing to go find and kill Negan, after meeting some of those bikers on the road. If done, Jesus agrees they’ll strike an agreement with their group.
In his bed, Gregory calls for Maggie. She tries to convince him they’re fit to do the job on Negan. He isn’t so hot on making a deal with them. But Maggie stress they’re “willing to work for it” and Gregory finally decides to go for it. She wants half, though, which Gregory wasn’t prepared to hear. She’s got him figured out.


Gregory: “You want anything else? Kidney, maybe?”
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Rick and the others seem to be taking this lightly. They feel invincible, almost. They’re willing to go up against a man about whom they’ve got no idea. Anyone who’s read the comics is aware. For those uninitiated, Negan is a terrifying individual. Michonne knows “its gonna be a fight” – Rick assuages her doubts: “Well win,” he tells her.
At the same time, Maggie and Glenn have Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris) do an ultrasound. They see their baby for the first time. A rare gift in the post-zombie world. Everyone gets a glimpse as it’s passed around the R.V. There’s a certain light in Abraham’s eyes, looking to Glenn in understanding now.
Everyone drives off into the sunset. But rest assured, their world will not be sunny much longer. The approach of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan is coming. And there will be blood, no doubt. Plenty.
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Next episode up, getting closer and closer to the end of the 6th season, is titled “Not Tomorrow Yet” and I cannot wait.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 6: “Always Accountable”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 6: “Always Accountable”
Directed by Jeffrey F. January
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of the previous episode, “Now” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Heads Up” – click here
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Another episode keeping the group divided, “Always Accountable” begins with walkie talkie chatter between Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). They cruise down the road, even a little chummy in their disposition over the radio.
Then out of nowhere, some other group attacks them. Daryl ducks under fire over the road. Abraham and Sasha take fire in the care.
But still, these tough sons and sister of bitches are downright bad ass. After Daryl hits the pavement, some zombies descend upon him. He makes it out while Sasha and Abraham gun down men in the car chasing after them. Separated slightly from his two friends, Daryl ends up collapsing on a forest road, surprisingly enough next to a corpse wearing a motorcycle helmet; all the while, Daryl wears nothing except the clothes on his back.
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Problem is, now Daryl’s off on his own in the woods somewhere. He’s a little beat up after taking a skid on the bike back with the trigger happy maniacs and the zombies. Something I don’t mention often enough is Norman Reedus, in terms of his acting skill. Even just himself, on his own, the pain he feels comes across as so real. I’ve loved him since I first saw him in Mimic, such a small yet impressionable role – loved him more once Boondock Saints came out. But as Daryl, he plays a rare role – with greatness – in which he’s both a hard, backwoods type of man, and at the same time there is a true, and often, glitter of kindness in his heart. There’s a reason the role was made for Reedus, literally; Darabont loved his audition for Merle, and so created the character specifically for him.
The worst comes when Daryl finds two women following him. Then a guy knocks him out. He gets taken captive by the three, at gunpoint. In the face of possible death, Daryl doesn’t flinch. How many times before AND after the zombie apocalypse happened has Daryl had a gun pointed in his face? Too many to count.
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When Daryl does make it away, running off into the woods, he takes an army duffle bag. Once far enough he has to fend off a zombie, then realizes the bag contains insulin. One of the women of the trio who took him captive seemed to have fainted right before Darly ran. Will this affect his good conscience? Or has the new wasteland finally turned him away from having that conscience when danger is too near?
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On down the road, Sasha and Abraham scrawl DIXON on a door in case Daryl is trailing behind. They head inside an office building. First, Abraham finds a military man’s uniform decorated with medals, a family photo. You can see a part of his former self, in the good sense, flicker behind his eyes. Afterwards he and Sasha have a bit of a confrontation. Both of them talk about being in control. Each has had a good deal of mental strain over the past while, though, they’re sort of returning to themselves. Surprisingly, it’s Sasha – who at once wanted to basically die – who has her head on the straightest. In some sense, she does get through to Abraham. Although he still puts up such a hard, rigid front.
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Sasha: “Without walkers and bullets and shit hittin’ the fan, you’re always accountable.”
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Going back to give the trio their bag, Daryl finds himself in a bad situation. Into the forest rolls a huge truck, out come a group of armed men looking for the three people. In a moment of even further conscience, possibly to his own detriment, the backwater cowboy Dixon helps the people who had once  treated him harshly. Off they run, hiding for a while. Until Daryl draws one of the men into getting bit by a zombie. The truck and men withdraw, not wanting to pursue any further because “he only wants ass that’s willing, y’know?” – pretty ominous. Is this what I think it is? Are we beginning to see slight introductions to a well-known character coming to the show later this season? Or is it merely another little villain for our heroes to overcome? We’ll see. I can’t remember half of the comics I’ve read up to this point, so some of what’s coming in terms of the adaptation I’m not even sure of anymore.
Abraham is still having his own trouble. He finds a box of cigars, as well as a soldier hanging from a rooftop and some knocked down fence. The soldier’s got an RPG strapped on his back. After a drawn out, tense scene, he ends up watching the zombified man rip apart and fall… but the RPG still hangs off the fence, anyways. Heading back inside with a newfound optimism, Abraham “makes some plays” in order to possibly get to know Sasha “a whole lot better“. Funny, sort of cute little scene between these two.
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Back with the trio and Daryl, things turn to terror. The young diabetic girl (ends up being bitten, once they return to a camp where they’d obviously once been. After they head into the forest, things seem to turn fine. Daryl begins the recruitment process, asking the THREE QUESTIONS they used to ask new people on the road.
But not too long passes before the two others turn on Daryl. They take not just his bike, also his crossbow. Alone in the woods, he’s again in a vulnerable position. Worse than when the episode began, in fact. Even so he comes to find a truck in the forest, a fuel company truck.
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For a moment when he pulls up to where Abraham and Sasha are staying, you think they’re in danger. We don’t even see Daryl, or the truck at first. Only the smiles on their faces.
As the episode closes, over the radio we here someone say: “Help. Help.” It sounds like Rick, possibly. Next week, I anticipate everyone will find their way back to Alexandria and once again they’ll all band together in order to move forward.
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Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “Heads Up”. Will we soon find out about Glenn? I’m loving the anticipation.