After a near-death experience on a bust gone wrong, two wise-cracking Chicago detectives flee to sunny Key West where they decide to retire and buy a bar. All they have to do is put away one last bad guy – who happens to want them dead. The movie is “Running Scared” (1986), the detectives are Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, and the director is Peter Hyams. MGM HD proudly celebrates the 35th anniversary of this classic comedy-thriller from the MGM vault.
When Peter Hyams first read the script for the film, it was meant for two older actors closer to retirement age and set in New York. To freshen up the concept he cast actors not normally associated with the cop movie genre and moved the action to lesser-filmed streets of Chicago. Both were wise moves and 35 years later, “Running Scared” wears well for those decisions.
The chemistry between the two actors is a large part of what makes the movie so enjoyable. “Most of the fun comes from the relationship between the two cops,” critic Roger Ebert wrote, “who are played by Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal as if they were both successfully stealing the picture.” For Billy Crystal, a veteran stand-up comedian whose acting work had been mostly in television, “Running Scared” launched a career as a leading man in movies that would last through the next decade including starring roles in “Throw Momma from the Train” (1987) and “Memories of Me” (1988), both of which can also be found in the MGM library. The late, great, Gregory Hines reportedly campaigned for the role of Ray Hughes, and brought his easy charm and comedic timing to the screen. (More examples of Hines’ fine work as an actor can be found in “The Cotton Club” (1984), “A Rage in Harlem” (1991), and “Eve of Destruction” (1991) all included in the MGM library).
The Chicago locations provided an extra element of distinctive character to the film. The familiar round Marina Towers apartments, Wrigley Field, Lake Shore Drive, and O’Hare International Airport all make appearances. Look for two memorable set pieces that utilized the city as a location: a thrilling car chase on the train tracks of “L” and the climax in the atrium of the James R. Thompson Center.
The movie features a terrific supporting cast, including the feature film debut of actor Jimmy Smits. Look for other familiar character actors, Joe Pantliano, Dan Hedeya, Steven Bauer, Jon Gries and Tracy Reed. One cannot write about “Running Scared” without also mentioning the decidedly 80’s soundtrack that featured Top 40 artists of the era including Klymaxx, New Edition, Patti LaBelle and, of course Michael MacDonald, who’s “Sweet Freedom” went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy “Running Scared” showing throughout the month of April on MGM HD.