Directed by: Jerry P. Jacobs
Starring: Jeff Speakman, Angie Everhart, Bart Braverman, Cassie Ray, and Robert Miano
Gregori (Speakman) is one of the toughest dudes in the Russian military. Previously loyal to Mother Russia, after his brother is killed during an assault on a Spanish chemical plant, Gregori renounces it all and relocates to Sherman Oaks, California. After eleven years in the States, we see that he now has a hot wife named Katherine (Everhart), and even a precocious young daughter, Amanda (Ray) To fully complete the transformation into a U.S. citizen, he grows a beard and puts on some weight, seemingly in an attempt to strongly resemble TV’s Richard Karn. He cleverly changes his name from Gregori to Greg, but even that doesn’t stop his past from coming back. When Russian operatives enlist him to do “one last job” because “he’s the best”, “Greg” can’t resist the lure of the classic cliches, and he actually wants to get revenge for his brother, now that he’s offered a chance to kill his murderer, a guy named Mercier (Braverman). Also he gets involved in the political assassination game as it relates to a politician named Chambers (Miano). Will Greg be running away...or RUNNING RED?
In our opinion, Running Red is the best Jeff Speakman movie. It doesn’t have any of the fat, boredom, or mind-numbing stupidity of his other works. PM is the ideal place for him, and they used him perfectly. Sure, we would have preferred more Kenpo and less gun-shooting, but in the absence of the actual Kenpo he does wear an oversized shirt that reads Kenpo Gear, and the back says “Show some respect”. Because it’s PM, it’s bright, well-lit, has a nice pace, and there are some classic blow-ups, car chases, car flips (even a double-car flip), gunfights, and well-choreographed action. It’s all very professional and works well. Director Jacobs has been hit or miss for us in the past; we loved A Dangerous Place (1995), but thought Freedom Strike (1998) was lame. Running Red puts another one in the win column for Mr. Jacobs.
The title could refer to the fact that Greg is running from his red past, or the running of blood, or be a subtle reference to Everhart’s hair. It’s also the color of his daughter’s Game Boy Color. Coincidence? Part of the plot even involves Greg’s wife wanting to drag him to her high school reunion because she “wants to show him off to her friends”. Presumably she’s going to tell them she’s married to Richard Karn. But another possible title could be “Running Red Heat”, because, like Rangers (2000), the bus chase from Red Heat (1988) is interpolated into the movie. If Running Red and Rangers can afford this footage, it must be going at fire sale prices. But didn’t PM realize that action fans would likely recognize what they saw? Maybe they were banking on the fact that the whole outing feels a bit...familiar. But still, it’s Speakman at his best.
The guy who plays Mercier looks a lot like Joe Mantegna, fan-favorite Robert Miano has a small but noteworthy role (was he contractually obligated to be in every PM movie?), and instead of a drug deal gone wrong, there’s an arms deal gone wrong. Instead of a wacky taxi driver, there’s a wacky exterminator. The daughter is cute in the classic Sarah Dampf style (bet you didn’t know there was a classic Sarah Dampf style), and she loves soda and hamburgers. She also eats a cereal called Crispy Rounds. If action heroes didn’t have daughters, what would get them up in the morning?
Running Red is the perfect place to start if you’ve never seen a Jeff Speakman movie. It might be all downhill from here (though his other films do have some of their own individual merits, to be fair) - but Running Red is a winner, and quite possibly the best DTV actioner of 1999.
Comeuppance Reviews by: Brett and Ty