During the '80's, buddy cop movies were all the rage and "Running Scared" was always one of my favorites due to its perfect mix of action and comedy. There's nothing even remotely special about the story, a spectacularly routine one about two cops trying to nab a rising drug lord in the Windy City, but the great chemistry between the two leads, smart dialogue and assured direction are what make this such a treat.
Billy Crystal seems an unlikely choice to play a street smart detective, but he's surprisingly good in the role and the relationship he has with co-star Gregory Hines is the real draw here. Their humor and one-liners are funny and fit in with the tone the picture maintains. It never feels jokey or too clever, and that makes up for the screenplay's other shortcomings which include a lot of police movie cliches. It even resorts to the girlfriend being kidnapped, resulting in a dopey exchange.
The plus with that is that it does give us the film's single best action sequence, a spectacular shoot-out in Chicago's State of Illinois Center. Peter Hyams is a reliable director when it comes to action films, and this is no exception. That scene and the various car and foot chases are well filmed and exciting. Couple that with the fine lead performances, clever dialogue and wonderfully '80's soundtrack, and it's easy to see why "Running Scared" is such an enjoyable movie. The energy level is high enough to help you overlook the simple plot and overused, predictable plot devices.