Really, I should stop using the “Bruce Campbell is in it” card. It’s led me down avenues of film that I never thought possible. My Name is Bruce was an awkwardly self-congratulatory film that should’ve worked thanks to faux egotism and embellishment of its stars, but it falls flat. The Love Bug was startlingly poor, but I could expect little from the ill-forgotten sequel to Herbie Goes Bananas. Still, releasing the same year as that car abomination was Running Time, a love letter to Alfred Hitchcock’s work in Rope. It’s easy to see the respect they have for the 40s thriller, but this one-take film from director Josh Becker does little else in the way of paying homage to the movie that inspired it.
At its core, it’s a nice little twist. On paper, that is. Anything looks good on paper, but on closer inspection you can realise it’s completely ineffectual and redundant. It’s why I’ve failed as a fiction writer. But Running Time has the issue of being a relatively short film, in need of flattening the more dazzling moments into brief flutters that an audience will miss if they so much as blink or turn away to focus on something more interesting, like a bit of loose floorboard or a small kestrel landing in the back garden. A film that will have you twiddling your thumbs, begging for something to happen, and when it does, the credits roll soon after.
Running Time is a Bruce Campbell vehicle through and through, without anyone else of particular interest featuring. I’ve always pondered why Campbell is in so many smaller movies, he clearly has the potential for bigger, and better projects, but I can’t knock a man for sticking to his roots. His roots here, however, are rotten. Dried up to the point of exhaustion, wilting away under a script that makes the more scenery-chewing, over-the-top days of Campbell’s career look like considerate method acting. A lot of getting down to brass tax, comically big cigars, the smoke choking what little air can be found within the compact set necessary for a “one-take” film. There’s no denying the editing is smart, but the point is lost entirely when the script isn’t strong enough to carry the torch.
Competent, that’s the nicest thing you can say about Running Time. It feels like a film that had its intention clearer in its mind than a story. Writing around the tribute Becker wants to pay to the master of horror, rather than incorporating his praise into a story not entirely dependent on the one-take addition. It’s a one-trick pony, one that shows off again, and again, and again. It grows weary and sluggish rather fast, the final nail in the coffin for a film that takes up less time than a football match. Campbell’s charm, it seems, can only take us so far, and it’s not far enough for this crime caper, which fails to get the ball rolling, its time spent more on feverishly appealing to the hardcore Hitchcock fan than it does to being a faithful heist flick.