In “On the Run,” a law-abiding guy is dragged into a long night of outlandish adventures when a dubious childhood pal materializes on his Manhattan doorstep. Mostly inventive, and consistently well played, this mismatched-buddy film boasts ample laughs and awkward situations that are easy to identify with, wacky though they are. Modest but entertaining pic, scripted by “After Hours” scribe Joseph Minion, marks a solid feature debut for director Bruno de Almeida.
Unassuming Albert (Michael Imperioli) is planning a quiet evening at home watching “The Naked Kiss” on TV when Louie (John Ventimiglia), the smooth-talking trouble-attracting friend he could never quite stand up to, calls for the first time in a decade after breaking out of jail. Having reluctantly agreed to meet Louie at the Port Authority bus terminal, Albert informs two cops of Louie’s whereabouts. Seized with remorse, he then rushes to warn Louie before he’s nabbed.
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A telling flashback shows the two as boys, stealing candy: Louie gets off scot-free; Albert is punished. Since all of Albert’s adult responses are basically honest, he continues to get a raw deal throughout the night as he and Louie visit a sex shop, a cash machine, a bar or two, a marina full of suspect characters and the downtown loft of an unlikely ally where a tense and funny poker game is under way.
Shot entirely on location with an intelligent low-budget eye, semi-gritty pic has the unstrained feel of Manhattan as a place where anything can happen and lots of things do. Although narrative is uneven in places and ending could be stronger, general tone and choice set pieces carry the venture. Pic’s opening sequence, in which Albert is browbeaten in his own travel agency by a customer, exploits the same uncomfortable humor of helmer’s 1993 Cannes Crix Week winning short, “The Debt.”
Ventimiglia has charisma to burn as the self-destructive bank robber who’s a lovable leech, and Imperioli wears a permanently worried expression as the working stiff. Drena De Niro is outstanding as an old acquaintance.