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Blu-ray Review Running Scared (1986) Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Apr 16, 2008
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
Running Scared (1986) Blu-ray Review

The buddy cop action comedy mash-up sub-genre was extremely popular in the 1980s, bringing us such films as 48 Hrs, Red Heat, Stakeout, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, to name a few. One of my favorites, though, has been Peter Hyams’ Running Scared from the summer of 1986, teaming an unlikely screen duo of Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal (hot off his one-year stint at Saturday Night Live) as two Chicago PD detectives looking to make one last major arrest before retiring to Key West, Florida. The film would be something of a blueprint for me for a screenplay I developed in the 1990s that eventually got shelved.

Studio: MGM

Distributed By: Kino Lorber

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 Hr. 47 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

Elite Blu-ray keepcase

Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 12/09/2014

MSRP: $29.95

The Production Rating: 3.5/5

Chicago Police Detectives Hughes and Costanza (Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal) are looking to take down Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits), a fast-rising drug kingpin trying to position himself as the first Hispanic Godfather of the windy city. While on a stakeout, they convince a not-too-bright dealer of Gonzales’ named Snake (a very funny Joe Pantoliano) to be arrested, turn over the $50,000 in cash in his possession, and wear a wire to incriminate Gonzales during the eventual deal. The deal eventually goes south, leading to a firefight that almost gets the two detectives killed, but ultimately ends with Hughes and Costanza taking Gonzales into custody. Their boss, Captain Logan (Dan Hedaya), tears them a new one, calling the takedown sloppy and orders them on a mandatory vacation. The two find themselves in Key West, Florida, enjoying the sights, relaxed atmosphere (and the ladies), when they hatch a plan to buy a shuttered bar using their pension as a down payment, and upon returning to Chicago, announce their retirement and give the captain their 30 day notice. But Gonzales managed (somehow) to make bail while they were down south, and are focused on putting the kingpin away once and for all before living the good life in Key West. To make things more complicated, Costanza is still madly in love with his ex-wife, Anna (Darlanne Fluegel), who has just announced that she’s getting married to a dentist. Or is she?

With very few exceptions, Running Scared has very little originality, following almost all of the buddy cop conventions to a tee (particularly those from the 1980s). Drug Lord Kingpin - check. Music montages - check. Black cop/white cop - check. Big shootout climax - check. What sets the film apart is the casting of Hines and Crystal, who have an unmistakable on-screen chemistry that brings much of the humor (and entertainment) to the film. Their bantering and bickering like an old married couple (which Hyams credits in the commentary track to the actors’ ability to improvise), along with humorous performances by Hedaya, Pantoliano, Steven Bauer and Jon Gries (as the two rookies likely to take Hughes and Costanza’s place), and Larry Hankin as the motor pool mechanic are what elevate this film. Add to that the riveting car chase on the El above Chicago, and the well-choreographed shootout in the then-recently opened State Center, plus a pulsing electronic score by Rod Temperton. The result is, perhaps, one of the more underrated action comedies of the 1980s.

Police Lineup

Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

I was not a big fan of MGM’s relatively muddy transfer used on their 2001 DVD release, so I was a bit skeptical when Kino announced that they would be releasing Running Scared on Blu-ray, fearing it would be the same transfer but in high definition. This appears to be a new transfer, as the print is in much better shape (although there is still some very minor dirt and scratches that may appear if you are looking for them), retaining the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and compressed using the AVC codec. Colors are still a bit washed out, but that is most likely an intentional choice by Peter Hyams (who doubled as director and director of photography, as he has done on most of his movies since), as the colors are much more vibrant during the brief sequences set in Key West. Blacks are also improved, with minimal crushing (again, if you really look for it), and detail is very good, with noticeable film grain that is never intrusive. Compression artifacts are nearly non-existent, surprising considering Kino has placed the feature along with all of the (standard definition) bonus features on a BD25 disc.

Audio Rating: 3.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo surround is a good representation of the film’s original matrixed Dolby Stereo theatrical track. Dialogue is directed mostly to the center channel, with some occasional left and right panning, remaining clear and distinguishable throughout, and surrounds are used mostly for ambience. Low-end is a bit light, as expected for a track that does not have a dedicated LFE channel, but still packs a pretty good wallop for a film from the mid 1980s.

Special Features Rating: 3/5

MGM’s 2001 DVD release was a major letdown, containing only one (misnamed) bonus feature and the film’s trailer. Those have been ported over to this release, plus a new commentary and some archival materials. Missing, though, is the humorous teaser trailer that was included on MGM’s laserdisc release.

Audio Commentary with Peter Hyams: Hyams is very upfront that this is one of his favorite films, and that he normally never watches any of his movies after he has turned the film over to the studio. So, to have him record a commentary is very rare. The director discusses casting the film, how he got involved (this was the first film greenlit by Alan Ladd, who ran the studio after it was sold back to Kirk Kerkorian by Ted Turner), how the film was relocated to Chicago, and his experience shooting in Chicago. He also discusses some of the ad-libbed and improvised scenes in the film.

Featurette (480i; 6:39): An archival behind the scenes that ran between movies on cable back in the 1980s.

Billy Crystal Outtakes (480i; 4:35): This is the misnamed featurette from the 2001 DVD release that is nothing more than home movies of Billy Crystal hanging out in his trailer. With all of the ad-libbing and improvisational work on the film, I had expected (back in 2001) for this to be a blooper reel.

Selected EPK Scenes (480i; 6:12): Selected scenes sent to TV outlets for use in their review of the movie.

Trailer (480i; 1:30): The film’s theatrical trailer, in anamorphic widescreen and 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Theatrical Trailer

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

One of my favorite action comedies from the 1980s finally arrives on Blu-ray, with a bit more respect than what the studio showed when it was released on DVD back when catalog titles actually mattered.

Reviewed By: Todd Erwin

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Eric Vedowski

Second Unit
Aug 30, 2002
Real Name
A fine review-you sum up the film and it's strengths very well. Too bad they didn't include the "Sweet Freedom" music video with Crystal & Hines appearing.

There's always YouTube. BTW The State of Illinois Thompson Center featured in the movie is now in such a state of disrepair the former Govenor it's named after recently called it "a dump."

Joseph DeMartino

Senior HTF Member
Jun 30, 1997
Real Name
Joseph DeMartino
I thought I was the only one who remembered this movie. I'm surprised and thrilled that it is finally getting a Blu Ray release. Pity there was never an LD or DVD with a commentary track with Gergory Hines and Billy Crystal. They had such great chemistry in this film I could never understand why there wasn't a sequel in the sequel-happy 80s.

Just got my copy in the mail today (ordered from Amazon via the link above, natch.) But I'm hanging onto it until my new TV arrives next Monday. :)



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