"Running Scared" marks the second time within a month that a character played by Paul Walker is in peril on ice.
The first was in "Eight Below," with Walker and Bruce Greenwood rescued by heroic sled dogs in a film about a gentle, noble relationship between man and animals.
"Running Scared" is more concerned with human ugliness, and among its seedier aspects are subplots about international prostitution rings and child pornography.
You could laugh off the film's more over-the-top aspects including the performances and its quasi-Quentin Tarantino dialogue if it didn't treat women and children with such brutality and contempt.
Walker stars as Joey Gazelle, a low-level hood for a New Jersey mob. After being involved in a shootout with some crooked undercover cops, Joey is supposed to dispose of evidence, including weapons. Instead he stashes them in his basement, a questionable act at best.
That's where his son's friend, Oleg (Cameron Bright), finds a revolver, which he uses to shoot his abusive stepfather (John Noble). After that it becomes a race against time, as Joey tries to track down Oleg and retrieve the gun before the cops do and before his bosses learn of his mistake.
Screenwriter/director Wayne Kramer ("The Cooler") has clearly watched a lot of Tarantino and Tony Scott films and tries to mimic the former's pop-culture dialogue and the latter's herky-jerky directing style. The result is downright ugly. In many ways.
One amusing aspect is Walker trying to affect a New Joisey "wiseguy" accent. Mostly he just utters a non-stop stream of curse words and obscenities. At least co-star Vera Farmiga, who strongly resembles a young Mimi Rogers, is a native of New Jersey.
"Running Scared" is rated R for pervasive use of strong sexual profanity, strong scenes of violence (shootings, beatings and some violence against women and children), some graphic gore, some strong drug content (use of and references to cocaine and methamphetamines), brief partial male and full female nudity, use of crude sexual slang terms, simulated sex, a scene depicting the attempted rape of a child, use of racial epithets and ethnic slurs, and a scene of torture (hockey-related). Running time: 119 minutes.