Running Scared (1986 film)

Running Scared is a 1986 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by Peter Hyams, written by Gary Devore and Jimmy Huston, and starring Gregory Hines, Billy Crystal, with Steven Bauer, Jimmy Smits and Dan Hedaya in supporting roles. Hines and Crystal play Chicago police officers who, after nearly being killed on the job, decide to retire and open a bar in Key West, Florida, only to get caught up in making one last arrest before they go.

Running Scared
Theatrical poster
Directed byPeter Hyams
Produced byDavid Foster
Lawrence Turman
Written byGary DeVore
Jimmy Huston
Music byRod Temperton
CinematographyPeter Hyams
Edited byJames Mitchell
The Turman-Foster Company
Distributed byMGM Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • June 27, 1986 (1986-06-27)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$38,500,726 (USA)

The film was produced and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.


Ray Hughes (Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Crystal) are two police officers working on Chicago's North Side, known for their wisecracking demeanors and unorthodox police methods, which get results in their various cases. One such case involves trying to bust up-and-coming drug dealer Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits). After arresting Snake (Joe Pantoliano), one of Julio's associates, they convince him to wear a wire in order to get the necessary evidence to put Julio away. When they approach the meeting place (a cargo ship) they find that Gonzales has acquired a large store of Israeli Uzi submachine guns. Snake is setting the detectives up, however, prompting the detectives to rush in by acting as though Gonzales was preparing to kill him. Gonzales reveals his ambition to be the next "godfather" of Chicago, but chastises Snake for letting the detectives get close, and Snake is shot dead by a subordinate. The pair look as though they will be killed for sure, but two undercover detectives in Julio's gang step in to make the arrest. In the ensuing gun battle, most of Julio's gang escape, but Ray and Danny capture Gonzales.

Back at the station Ray and Danny expect to be praised, but instead their captain (Dan Hedaya) chastises them for their sloppy work (as revealed by Snake's wire) and orders them to take a vacation. On vacation in Key West, Florida, the pair begin to question their career choice after the experience and decide to retire and open a bar.

When they return to Chicago and inform the captain of their intentions, they find out that Gonzales has been released and is free on bail. Incensed, they vow to capture Gonzales before retiring, but by being a little more careful in the process. To add insult to injury, Captain Logan assigns them the additional task of training their replacements before they go. They must train detectives Anthony Montoya (Jon Gries) and Frank Sigliano (Steven Bauer), none other than the two undercover officers that saved them from being killed in the Gonzales bust. Logan wants the replacements to be "the best of the worst" and orders them never to let him catch them doing anything Ray and Danny teaches them.

During one of the attempts to capture Gonzales, Ray and Danny confiscate a large shipment of cocaine coming from Colombia. In order to get them back, Gonzales kidnaps Danny's ex-wife Anna (Darlanne Fluegel), whom he still loves and has been trying to reconcile with, and says he will trade her for his drugs; otherwise, he will kill her. Danny agrees, leading to the final confrontation inside the high-rise atrium of the James R. Thompson Center. During the ensuing fight, Danny and Ray rescue their would-be protégés in a way similar to their own rescuing, and Gonzales is killed. Anna and Danny reconcile and he and Ray decide not to retire after all.



Hyams later recalled, after 2010 he wanted "to remain earthbound". He wanted to do "a comedy that was not stupid, and a film that had action in it, but a film where the action was not mean-spirited or bloody or graphic."[1]

MGM came to him with a script about two elderly cops in New York who retire. He wanted to make it about two young cops in Chicago who did not retire. Hymans thought this "opened up a set of casting possibilities to me that were fresh" and "gave a chance visually to use a city that is not used as much".[1]

"There were a lot of cop movies around at that time, so I decided that if I wanted to be interesting I needed to do it with two actors you would not normally expect to see in an action movie," said Hyams. "So I wanted Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, and I got them and they were wonderful together. They just clicked.[2]

Hines did an Amazing Stories with Hyams. "I just campaigned and campaigned for it until I got it," said Hines. And I'm proud because this is the first film that stars a black guy and a white guy - and the black guy has all the sex scenes. Of course, the part was to have been played by a white guy. But, still, those scenes are still in the movie. Usually, the black guy has no sexuality at all. "[3]

The movie was filmed in September 1985. There was six weeks of filming in MGM's Studios plus location work in Key West and Chicago.[4][5]

"Hyams was tough to work with," said Hines. "But I don't want to put the guy down."[3]

Crystal said " I contributed what I hope are little pearls throughout the piece. Peter Hyams... wanted me in the part because he felt I was the kind of writer/performer who could help the script at certain moments because I improvise a lot. So I got very involved. I would improvise during rehearsal and then sometimes I did it during a take, which gets even more dangerous. And you can't do those kinds of things unless you have an actor like Gregory Hines who is there to catch you. To hold you at that particular moment."[6]


Running Scared was a moderate box office success, earning over $38 million. Reviews were mixed, however, and the film has a current 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert recommended it, saying that the film "transcends its dreary roots and turns out to be a lot of fun".[7]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times, however, advised people to "stay home and watch Miami Vice or Cagney and Lacey" instead.[8]

Box office

The film debuted at #5 at the U.S. box office, with a weekend gross of $5,227,757.[9]


Running Scared
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
LabelMCA Records
ProducerRod Temperton, Dick Rudolph, and Bruce Swedien

The Running Scared soundtrack was released in conjunction with the movie and contained a mix of songs and music featured in the film. The album sold well and produced three top 15 hits with performances by Klymaxx, Michael McDonald, New Edition, and Patti LaBelle. Producer Rod Temperton also contributed two songs with his band The Rod Temperton Beat Wagon.

Track listing

No. Title Performer Length
1 "Man Size Love" Klymaxx 4:15
2 "Sweet Freedom" Michael McDonald 7:38
3 "I Just Wanna Be Loved" Ready for the World 4:55
4 "Running Scared" Fee Waybill 4:31
5 "Once in a Lifetime Groove" New Edition 4:05
6 "I Know What I Want" Patti LaBelle 3:56
7 "Say You Really Want Me" Kim Wilde 4:31
8 "El Chase" [Instrumental] (featuring Larry Williams) The Rod Temperton Beat Wagon 5:33
9 "Never Too Late to Start" (featuring Tommy Funderburk) The Rod Temperton Beat Wagon 4:11

Singles chart positions

Year Single Chart Position
1986 Man Size Love Billboard Hot 100 15[10]
Once in a Lifetime Groove Dance Music/Club Play Singles 9[10]
Once in a Lifetime Groove Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 10[10]
Once in a Lifetime Groove Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 10[10]
Sweet Freedom Adult Contemporary 4[10]
Sweet Freedom Billboard Hot 100 7[10]
Sweet Freedom Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 17[10]
1987 Say You Really Want Me Billboard Hot 100 44[10]

Album chart position

Year Album Chart Position
1986 Running Scared R&B Albums 38[11]
Running Scared Billboard 200 43[11]

See also


  1. Down-to-earth job for Hyams LAWRENCE VAN GELDER. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]03 July 1986: C.3.
  2. "Peter Hyams Film by Film" Empire accessed 30 July 2014
  3. Gregory Hines: a dancer hits the screen and gets the girls: [FINAL Edition] Philip Wuntch Dallas Morning News. The Citizen; Ottawa, Ont. [Ottawa, Ont]30 June 1986: D10.
  4. ASIAN ACTRESS ARIANE BREAKS STEREOTYPE: [SUN-SENTINEL Edition] Sun-Sentinel wire services. Sun Sentinel; Fort Lauderdale [Fort Lauderdale]26 Aug 1985: 6.C.
  5. MOVIES: BUDDIES BOUND FOR LAUGHS CRYSTAL & HINES CRYSTAL & HINES Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times 10 Nov 1985: ac14.
  6. 'Undercover cop is closest to being me,' says Crystal: [SUN Edition] Lisa Robinson Special to The Star. Toronto Star; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]27 July 1986: D6.
  7. Ebert, Roger (June 27, 1986). "Running Scared (1986)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  8. Canby, Vincent (June 27, 1986). "Film: Running Scared". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  9. "June 27-29, 1986: Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  10. "allmusic ((( Running Scared > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  11. "allmusic ((( Running Scared > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 2010-06-17.
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