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“Running Scared” and the Thompson Center, filmed in Chicago in 1986


“Helmut Jahn’s Illinois State Center is the most cerebral, most abstract, and yet the most magnificent building ever constructed in the Loop,” said Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp. Wrote When it opened in 1985.

A year later, he would feature prominently in the 1986 buddy cop action comedy “Running Scared,” starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. The film’s climax takes place in the atrium, a cinematic love letter to the building’s soaring domed building with pale blue and salmon-colored interiors that Gapp calls “breathtaking.” Even the spiral mosaic tile floor is unforgettable.

These distinctive design elements may not survive the upcoming intestinal rehabilitation. Last year, the state sold the building (renamed the James R. Thompson Center in 1993) to Google. demo renovate the interiors and renovate the space in the coming months.

As much as I hated the idea of ​​changing the building’s distinctive look, the few people who worked there liked the open-plan layout, which created all kinds of problems, including faulty temperature control. Neglect didn’t help anything either.

But as Gapp writes: “In a city where architects have long worshiped 90-degree angles and black curtain walls, the center’s asymmetry and multicolored skin seem almost a brazen thumbs-up on the past.” For decades, it served to cleanse the visual palate of the more traditional buildings around it.

If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to take one last tour of this gorgeous, modernist space before it disappears, the building is open to the public Thursday through Saturday, thanks to the Chicago Architecture Biennial. to display It’s there until the end of the year.

Or you can revisit “Running Scared,” which is streaming for free (with ads). on freevee.

Crystal and Hines play street cop detectives who are more adept at pulling pranks than catching bad guys. But don’t tell them (or the writers) that. Their worldview: Everyone but them is asshole, thanks to Chicago’s hard-boiled everything. Their easy jokes Only You realize that this side of conceit and ease with which they handle the material is a talent that has been missing on the big screen lately. It is very impressive to encounter it while watching it again.

The 1986 action comedy stars, from left, Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal "Running away in fear."

Their captain is sick of them (of course), so he tells them to give them some time off. Crystal slaps the table: “No! We have been through so much!”

“You know,” their captain replies, “it’s a very bad sign when a cop thinks Chicago will fall apart without them.”

So they head to Key West, where they hook up with a string of beautiful women and decide to retire and open a bar under sunny skies instead. They give 30 days notice when they return to Chicago. “Show me another career where they let you shoot people!” Their captain says in disbelief. It was supposed to be a funny line but wow, talk about being realistic.

They have one last raid to do before they hang up their badges. Their target is an elusive, suit-wearing, Mercedes-driving kingpin played by Jimmy Smits, and the final showdown takes place at the Thompson Center. Director Peter Hyams also served as the film’s cinematographer and has a real eye for capturing the building’s unique qualities and dimensions. Even the exposed, glass-walled elevators provide a major plot point.

The film makes the most of Chicago’s winter setting. Naturally cold. Snow is everywhere. Florida fantasies make sense.

But more importantly, the movie looks It sounds obvious, like it was shot in Chicago, but that’s not always the case depending on what’s being shot here. (A significant portion was shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles, with location work in Key West and Chicago.) A car chase ensues on the “L” tracks. In another scene, you can see the former 666 Lounge at 666 S. State Street in the background. We also see a church with a large sign that says “Christ died for our sins.” What we don’t see is that these buildings are literally built in real life. right next to each other – as they chat with each other, really – it’s a hilarious detail and a missed opportunity by Hyams.

But it’s the film’s use of the Thompson Center that stands out in the way it showcases these magnificent interiors.

Gapp was wondering in 1985 why there were so many colors. “Some feel that Jahn’s personal and rather strange palette is better suited to Acapulco or Miami Beach than Chicago. Jahn says he is trying to make bright ‘optimistic’ architecture. He says many people have stopped believing in the future.

Jahn was not wrong then or now.

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic.



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