Written by: Ron Cotton on September 8th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: São Paulo Mostra de Cinema, Brazil, November 2, 1997
Director: Josh Becker
Writer: Josh Becker
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Jeremy Roberts, Anita Barone
DVD Released: January, 1st 1999
Approximate Running Time: 70 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
“So when can you legitimately call a film done? When you make release prints? When the film is actually released, which in many cases is never. Or perhaps when the bills stop coming in. In that case RUNNING TIME is not done yet.” - Josh Becker, The Making of Running Time
Running Time, not to be confused with other movies with the same title, is a unique experiment in recreating the effect of the single continuous shot. This was attempted once before in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Not only a cast involving Evil Dead’s Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell but also included Xena’s Jeremy Roberts. The ever-popular Bruce Campbell plays the main character and protagonist which is a no-brainer. Costing only 120,000 dollars and filmed in 10 days, Running Time was an impressive undertaking. Filmed in sequence, the actors’ development and interactions are distinctly real, and not so unprofessional like reality television. This was a good medium ground. The transitions moving in and out of buildings and vehicles were seamless. The steady cam movements ended its journeys with great composition and set pieces, everything framed and balanced. Unbelievably, Running Time only had 30 cuts throughout the film. Filmed in sequence, the steady cam work was neither disorienting nor jittery.
After Carl (Bruce Campbell) is released from prison, Carl plans a heist of over a quarter of a million dollars. Dirty unmarked mob money from the prison. Networking with his outside connections, his old partner Patrick (Jeremy Roberts) sets up the gig as payment back his prior digressions. When things turn sour with the heist, Carl must choose to continue recklessly or take the straight and narrow path.
The major problem with this beautifully rendered film was its very predictable story. As a side note, one memorable scene appeared very similar to a scene in De Palma’s Body Double. Even with this disappointment, the unique feel and texture of this film has qualities to revisit. The actors had to go beyond the average performances seen in Hollywood films and the cinematography is a must see.
Filmed in black and white full-frame, Running Time has a nostalgic look with a technique that separates this from other independent films today that demand widescreen ratios. Aspect ratio is said to be 1.37:1, however, Josh Bender on his own site states the ratio above is correct. Nothing outstanding with the audio and some film dirt and hair is evident. I am curious if this look and sound design was completely Josh Bender’s intention or simply a very poor transfer.
The commentary begins with slapstick banter between both Bruce Campbell and Josh Becker – who pause listening to key moments in the film. They both interact like old friends, initially some of Campbell’s questions are set-ups and both become comfortable with each other. The trailer is no frills and is a bit useless. With a cut here and there, the trailer was mainly the first couple of minutes copied. Josh Becker or Anchor Bay should have offered more features to this bare bones DVD release, as the commentary offered was the only feature worthwhile. Josh Becker made Running Time the way he wanted – and he intended with his limited resources. Making this film outside the system, calling all the shots minus the bureaucracy makes this effort worthwhile.