• Running Time (Synapse Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Josh Becker
    Cast: Bruce Campbell, Jeremy Roberts, Anita Barone, Art Lafleur
    Year: 1997
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    Running Time – Movie Review:

    Directed by Josh Becker (Evil Dead alum and the man behind Thou Shall Not Kill… Except and Lunatics: A Love Story) in 1997, Running Time stars the inimitable Bruce Campbell as Carl. When we first meet him, he’s finished serving his time behind bars and is called in to talk to the warden (Art LaFleur) before being released. When asked what he’s going to do on the outside, Carl tells the Warden he’s going to get into the laundry business. The warden hands him some Cuban cigars, wishes him luck and sends him on his way.

    Outside the big house, Carl’s best friend Patrick (Jeremy Roberts) waits for him in a delivery truck. Carl didn’t snitch while he was behind bars, and that kept Patrick out of prison. As a reward, in the back of the truck for Carl is a beautiful prostitute who Carl wastes no time having sex with. When they’re done, he recognizes her as Janie (Anita Barone), a girl he once had a relationship with in high school. They talk and it’s clear that they’re still into one another. Before Patrick lets her off, she gives him her address and tells him to stop by. From there, they pick up a 'brilliant' junkie named Donny (Gordon Jennison Noice) and a safecracker named Buzz (William Standford Davis), the later of whom was Carl's cell mate for a year or so before being let out.

    They try to synchronize their watches and set out to pull of what should be a very easy heist at a laundry company affiliated with the prison that Carl just left, but of course, nothing can be easy and things very quickly go south.

    Devised by Becker to play out like Rope, that meaning to appear as one continuous shot with no noticeable edits and purported to play out in real time, Becker’s film is an enjoyable and ambitious picture occasionally hampered by a very low budget. The acting is generally quite good, though not always great. Campbell is fun in his part, but at times it is tricky not to see him as Ash, since Carl is also occasionally a bit of a smart ass. That isn’t his fault though, and he handles the material well. He’s charming in the way that Bruce Campbell is charming and he handles the material just fine. Anita Barone does a good job here of creating a believable and sympathetic character and handling some of the heavier drama that arrives towards the end of the film quite nicely. William Standford Davis is likeable as Buzz, Noice believably scuzzy as the junkie but Roberts chews a bit of the scenery during the scenes where Patrick and Carl argue. Still, the good outweighs the bad.

    Production values are stronger than you might expect. The black and white cinematography looks very good and does a nice job of creating an appropriately claustrophobic atmosphere. The final product is quite well put together, really feeling like seventy-minutes of continuous action. It’s paced well and doesn’t overstay its welcome, though the opening credits do go on a bit longer than they probably needed to. Overall though, this is a pretty fun watch and something a little different compared to most of the other films that Campbell is known for. Elements of the plot are a little predictable but it’s still fun watching it all play out.

    Running Time – Blu-ray Review:

    Running Time is taken from an “all-new 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative” and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with the sixty-eight-minute feature taking up 17.8GBs of space on the 25GB disc. By and large, this transfer looks great. The 1.33.1 full frame image is presented in its proper aspect ratio. The contrast on the black and white picture is strong and there’s a lot more noticeable and appreciable depth and detail here than there was on the old DVD release. Black levels are stronger as well. There are no noticeable compression artifacts to complain about and while the image is naturally grainy, it always looks nice and filmic. Noise reduction and edge enhancement never creep into the picture at all – overall, this is a very nice upgrade.

    The film is presented for the first time on video with the original theatrical stereo mix in English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. As this was primarily shot with live sound under some occasionally chaotic conditions, there are a few spots where the dialogue sounds a bit low or a bit muffled, so the subtitles might come in handy now and then. Otherwise, though, the track sounds pretty good. There’s some depth to the proceedings and both the score and effects sound fine. No problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced.

    The main extra on the disc is a full-length audio commentary with writer/director Josh Becker and star Bruce Campbell that originally appeared on the now long out of print DVD release from Anchor Bay Entertainment way back in 1999. For those who haven’t heard it, the track is a lot of fun. Becker is pretty much always on track, discussing the ins and outs of getting the picture made, financial issues, casting the film, shooting on location, problems that they ran into on set and more. Campbell clowns around a lot and provides plenty of comic relief but talks about his experiences here quite fondly, occasionally ribbing Becker the way that good friends will often do. If you’ve never given this a spin before, check it out, you’ll get a kick out of it.

    From there, check out the twenty-minute Run And Gun With Bruce Campbell interview featurette. Shot, appropriately, in black and white it lets the man himself talk about how he came to know Josh Becker and become lifelong friends with the guy, share some memories of the early projects that they worked on together and talk about how he came to be involved with this, the film he claims to have made the least money doing but a picture for which he obviously has some serious affection. He also talks about what makes the film different, what it was like shooting it, the production schedule and more. Like most interviews with Bruce, it’s as funny as it is informative.

    The disc also includes twenty-minutes of Q&A footage from the Freaky Film Festival Premiere at the University of Illinois where the movie was done before the movie rather than after it when the print didn’t arrive in time. During the Q&A session, the organizers used that time to get a screening set up from a video master instead. At any rate, Becker and Campbell field questions regarding all sorts of stuff, including Campbell’s Hercules spinoff, Becker’s work on Xena, Campbell’s ‘difficulties’ getting away from playing Ash, Running Time's screenings in Brazil and Finland, the film’s low budget, what it was like on set and plenty more. Again, it’s a pretty funny talk and interesting to listen to as well. The audio and video quality isn’t perfect but better to have it here in less than perfect condition than to not have it at all.

    An original promotional trailer, menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Running Time - The Final Word:

    Running Time isn’t a perfect film but more often than not it works rather nicely. Campbell’s fan base will enjoy seeing him in a more serious role and technical merits are strong. Synapse has done a nice job bringing the film to Blu-ray with a strong presentation and some interesting extras. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Running Time Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I really like this, and watching the new Blu-ray release a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed it even more and wished I'd revisited this film more often over the years. The new HD presentation is superb, a huge upgrade over the (grey market?) Chinese DVD that I bought about 15 or so years ago.