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Running Scared

(1986, Hyams)

Ray: "I think it's awfully sad to be talking about quittin'. It might look like we're scared."
Danny: "We're not scared. We're smart!"

That's one of the ways that Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) tries to rationalize to his partner his decision to retire from the force. Of course, you wanna think of yourself as being "smart", rather than "scared"; especially when you're a Chicago police officer. But can they follow through on their decision? That is the basis for this 1986 buddy cop film.

Running Scared follows Costanzo and his partner, Ray (Gregory Hines) as they try to track down dangerous drug lord, Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits). However, after the cops survive a shootout during a raid on a gun shipment for Gonzales, the two start to question their careers and start thinking about retiring early and opening a bar in Florida.

This is a film I'm baffled I had barely heard about, considering it came up in the 1980s, around the time I was watching stuff like Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon. But for some reason, this one seemed to get lost in the mix. The film follows more or less a similar vibe to those that I mentioned above, with the two partners usually going against the grain to capture the bad guys, while cracking one-liners in the process.

The thing that works about this film is that Hines and Crystal have an undeniable chemistry. Their banter is funny, cool, and infectious. You can also feel there's a dose of Crystal's ad-libbing, but it works perfectly. The film has a good dose of solid one-liners, and the supporting cast (that includes Joe Pantoliano and Dan Hedaya, among others) is pretty good.

What didn't work as well for me was the overall tone. There is a bit of a tonal dissonance to the plot that I just can't quite grasp. For starters, the two cops are shown to be pretty bold and fearless, often to the point of recklessness, during the first act, so their choice to "run scared" after a dangerous situation doesn't necessarily jive with the kind of cops we've seen them to be or the kind of film this is.

The thing is that the original idea for the script called for two "older cops" about to retire, which I think would've made more sense to the story. There is also a montage towards the middle of the film as they hang out in Miami during their forced vacation that feels weird and dated. Finally, a couple of romantic subplots between both cops feel underserved and, yes, weird (both of which involve woman that are married, or about to get married). But as far as a fun, light, buddy cop comedy with two wise-cracking cops with great chemistry, I guess it delivers.