It’s not often that we get crime thrillers that unfold in real time, but Josh Becker’s indie “Running Time” takes a shot and does a great job of it. “Running Time” is true to its word, a movie that unravels over the course of a little over an hour, and the run time for the narrative is apt. The movie is not too long, refusing to pad the story, buts it’s never too short to where we’re left asking questions. It runs a good pace as a tense drama that feels kind of like a prologue to “Reservoir Dogs.” Campbell is stellar and the movie almost makes it to the finish line without a hitch. Almost, but not quite.
Carl, an ex-con fresh out of prison who sets out to rob the prison laundry system where he worked for five years plans the ultimate heist. Upon his release, he meets up with a high school buddy, who’s made all the arrangements for the job, and rented him a hooker for his first encounter in a decade with a real girl. After picking up the safecracker and their getaway driver, they’ve got twenty minutes to pull off the heist. But everything falls apart when he realizes time isn’t on his side.
“Running Time” is primarily a show for Bruce Campbell to perfectly display how he can carry almost any movie. And I’m not typically a Campbell fan boy. As Carl, his character is perfectly explored through well timed expository exchanges, all of which occur during the film’s framework premise. Campbell is great as Carl, eliciting flashes of Steve McQueen every now and then. It’s probably not coincidental that “Running Time” often feels like a truncated “The Getaway” and allows for a taut heist film. Considering director Becker spins the narrative in apparent real time, when Carl begins to feel the crunch time to get the heist pulled off, we can feel it too.
When he realizes that he miscalculated his timing, Becker amps up the tension beautifully with the lack of music and sheer claustrophobia of the films centerpiece setting. Carl is a man who counts everything to give his heist a chance to be a success, but he never considers the contingencies. This veers in to a very tense foot race that perfectly dodges the inherent lack of budget, but also allows us to further glance in to Carl’s ability to survive and thrive under pressure. That said, “Running Time” paints itself in to a corner in the final five minutes providing something of a clunker of a finale.
It just feels so painfully out of place with what we’d just seen. While Becker does offer some considerable foreshadowing, the way “Running Time” comes to a close left me thinking “That’s it?” In either case, while the ending leaves so much to be desired, “Running Time” is a sharp and clever heist picture that proves you can do so much with a modest budget and some good ideas.
The fully packed Blu-Ray comes with an Audio Commentary with Director Josh Becker & Star Bruce Campbell, there’s also the twenty minutes “Run and Gun with Bruce Campbell,” an interview with Bruce Campbell, in black and white, who gives a history of he and director Josh Becker, and goes over a pretty detailed, blunt look at ten day shoot for the film. There’s the original trailer in HD, and finally nineteen minutes of Archival 1997 Freaky Film Festival Q&A Video, conducted at the University of Illinois before a screening of the film.
There’s a disclaimer about the festival having to show the film on video because the print had not made it in transit yet. The Q&A was impromptu as they needed to kill time while the setup was changed. Campbell rises to the occasion, entertaining and fielding questions about his work on Hercules, Evil Dead, and Brisco County Jr, along with questions about the film. The Blu-Ray also features brand new artwork.