(In theaters, February 2006) This film is trash from beginning to end and I loved it. Seemingly written by an European screenwriter whose only understanding of America comes from true-crime stories and Tarantino films, Running Scared drops us in a pocket universe of roughly twenty awful people who never, ever sleep as their destinies clash on a night where a stolen gun is the object of all desires –and the root of all evil. Nice description, but even I don’t believe it: it’s easier to see this as an exercise in style, loosely hung together with some of the most outrageous writing in recent memory. Gun-runners, killer couples, child abusers, sadistic hockey players and two kinds of mafias abound in this dark fairy tale: even a chance slip into a van to avoid danger bring a character to horrors scarcely imaginable. It works only because the execution is as wild as the script, with plenty of delicious shots to keep things hopping. The film is as manipulative as it’s exhilarating, reaching for Domino-style excess well after it has pummelled its viewers in insensibility. There is a particularly affecting scene involving snuff-making pedo-serial killers (no less) that is unbelievably preposterous, yet gripping even as you realize you’re being played. It’s easy to dismiss this film as nothing more than a self-indulgent mess, but it’s a lot more fun to go along with the ride and whoop it up as the atrocious coincidences and the impossible twists just keep piling on. Throw a challenge at the film: dare it to lose you. I may be a minority of one on this, but I would rather be prodded by a bad film than bored by a good one. Running Scared certainly won’t be for everyone; I can only hope you’ll be one of the lucky few who get the joke.