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Running on Empty

Running on Empty

5.0 2
Director: Sidney Lumet

Cast: Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, Judd Hirsch


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In this family drama from director Sidney Lumet, Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play Arthur and Annie Pope, a pair of '60s radicals who have eluded the FBI for 16 years after bombing a napalm laboratory as a Vietnam War protest. This lifestyle involves continually moving their


In this family drama from director Sidney Lumet, Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play Arthur and Annie Pope, a pair of '60s radicals who have eluded the FBI for 16 years after bombing a napalm laboratory as a Vietnam War protest. This lifestyle involves continually moving their base of operations and establishing new identities, which is especially hard on their children, 18-year-old Danny (River Phoenix) and 10-year-old Harry (Jonas Abry), who can never amass a group of friends or an academic record. This last problem comes to the fore when they arrive in a New Jersey town where the high school music teacher (Ed Crowley) takes an interest in Danny's piano playing, encouraging him to apply for early admission to Juilliard. Danny yearns to follow this dream, but knows that separating from his parents would be a permanent break -- the aging hippies rarely even see their own parents, and can never inform anyone where they've moved. Arthur can't stand the idea of breaking up the family unit, which has provided the support that's allowed him to tolerate life on the move, but Annie sees her own sacrificed dreams in her son's prodigious musical talents, and begins pressuring Arthur to grant the boy his independence. Complicating factors, Danny has fallen in love with the daughter of his music teacher (Martha Plimpton), but can't allow himself to get too close to her, because he may have to leave again at any moment. ~ Derek Armstrong

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Danny is falling in love with Lorna Phillips, the daughter of the local music teacher. As Danny and Lorna walk along the beach, he is incapable of walking next to her. He keeps running ahead, because running is what he has been forced to do his entire life. His family has been underground since his parents' college days when they caused the death of an innocent bystander during the bombing of a college building. The film deals with the very real emotional pain the family experiences when Danny decides he no longer wants to run. Aside from the pressures of living underground, their characters have not had to pay for their crimes in any profound way, until the point when their son will leave them and they possibly may never see him again. While the world chases after the Popes, they draw strength from each other. Danny's leaving will make their lifestyle all the more difficult; there will be one less person they can rely on. Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch are note-perfect. River Phoenix gives a performance full of appropriately conflicting emotions. It is, along with his work in Dogfight, one of the performances that magnifies what he might have become if not for his untimely death. Sidney Lumet underplays the visuals, allowing the actors the room to be subtle. The family's strength and love goes hand-in-hand with their unrelenting stress. The actors project weariness and love in equal measure, making for an emotionally devastating resolution when Danny finally makes the break. Running on Empty manages to tell a realistic story about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Archives
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Christine Lahti Annie Pope
River Phoenix Danny Pope
Judd Hirsch Arthur Pope
Martha Plimpton Lorna Phillips
Jonas Abry Harry Pope
L.M. Kit Carson Gus Winant
Ed Crowley Mr. Phillips
Steven Hill Mr. Patterson
Augusta Dabney Mrs. Patterson
David Margulies Dr. Jonah Reiff
Sidney Lumet Actor
Lynne Thigpen Contact at Eldridge St.
Marcia Jean Kurtz School Clerk
Sloane Shelton Mrs. Phillips
Justine Johnston Librarian
Herb Lovelle Hospital Clerk
Bobo Lewis Home Ec Teacher
Ronnie Gilbert Mrs. Taylor
Leila Danette Maid
Michael Boatman Spaulding
Jenny Lumet Music Girl
William Foeller Man at Meeting
Carol Cavallo Woman at Meeting
Alice Drummond Mrs. Powell
Joey Thrower Catcher
Donna Hanover Reporter
Thomas Fraioli Violinist
Burke Pearson Julliard Man
Elzbieta Czyzewska Julliard Woman
Angela Pietropinto English Teacher
Daniel Dassin Waiter

Technical Credits
Sidney Lumet Director
Griffin Dunne Co-producer
Gerry Fisher Cinematographer
Naomi Foner Producer,Screenwriter
Robert Guerra Art Director
Burtt Harris Asst. Director,Executive Producer
Anna Hill Johnstone Costumes/Costume Designer
Andrew Mondshein Editor
Tony Mottola Score Composer
Amy Robinson Co-producer
Philip Rosenberg Production Designer
Toy Russell Makeup
James J. Sabat Sound/Sound Designer
Philip Smith Set Decoration/Design
Todd Thaler Casting


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Running on Empty 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
goodgirl2 More than 1 year ago
i always loved River Phoniex there was The Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon Little Naktia Stand By Me and ofcourse Running On Empty a drama but a wonderful movie came out in 88 one of those good years the 1980's a classic i love RP River Phonix!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have nothing else to say except this is a great movie.