Run Hide Fight

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Run Hide Fight
"The film fails to acknowledge its own absurdity and that, as it turns out, is okay, because May is more than capable of carrying it as it is." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

"Run: evacuate if possible. Hide: hide silently in a safe place. Fight: take action to disrupt the shooter." It's the standard advice given to schoolkids in the US, a country where school shootings are more than 240 times as common as in other economically successful countries of comparable size. That children have to live with this near permanent state of fear is apt to do psychological damage in itself, but perhaps less so for this film's heroine, Zoe (Isabel May), who is numb to it all anyway due to the recent loss of her mother (Radha Mitchell). Her father (Thomas Jane) is trying to do his best for her, or at any rate to keep her mind off it. When we first see them, they're on a hunting trip together. She doesn't need the pep talk he expects. The speed with which she takes violent action hints at deep trauma, but she's still not ready to talk.

The bulk of the film focuses on what happens when this already troubled teenager finds herself caught up in a school shooting. For much of the running time it lifts its plot from Die Hard. She's accidentally elsewhere when a hostage situation develops and has the option of escaping but wants to help those trapped inside. She spends a fair bit of time limping around wearing a smudged vest top, or climbing through the air vents. There's even the threat of an explosion near the end, but nary a "Yippie-ki-yay motherfucker!" to be heard. The film fails to acknowledge its own absurdity and that, as it turns out, is okay, because May is more than capable of carrying it as it is.

Absurdity? This is inherent in the set-up, which has been clumsily strung together, apparently in service of a political point. That it doesn't really come across as political - and thereby works as a film - is largely down to the fact that anyone with a modicum of knowledge about school shootings can recognise it straight away as fantasy, and thereby enjoy its appeal as an action movie without taking it too seriously. The thinly drawn villains, who all have dark hair and wear vaguely gothy clothes (as if the audience is expected to buy into the Columbine myth even today) are an organised group of friends (vanishingly rare) with no real motive beyond gaining notoriety on social media (which really doesn't need to take this much effort). Holding other teenagers at gunpoint in the school cafeteria, they attempt to to enact a needlessly complicated scheme, always one step ahead of the police but clueless in other respects.

The film has received heavy criticism from some sections of the press, partly due to the disturbing allegations about producer Adam Donaghey but also because it was apparently funded with the intention of selling the idea that only a good guy (or good young woman) with a gun can stop bad guys with guns. This latter concern seems odd in light of the fact that it's an action movie and that's what action movies do, and if people take them seriously, they probably have a pretty skewed view of the world to begin with. Furthermore, the film never really sells the idea that responding to violence with violence provides a solution to trauma. Zoe's approach to coping changes but she never seems okay.

What this scenario does do is provide great material for May, who teases out all of her character's complexities to provide us with a heroine who feels like a whole human being even though she's navigating an unlikely situation. She's particularly strong when discussing her feelings about what's happening directly with another student, in a scene that's justified by the plot and doesn't feel extraneous. Most importantly, she holds our attention even when she's just wandering around. It's a star-making turn and one hopes to see more from her.

Well paced and with some nice set pieces, Run Hide Fight is a solid piece of entertainment. Director Kyle Rankin manages the tension well. It's not realistic but it delivers well on the scares and thrills that most viewers will be looking for.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2021
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A teenager facing grief after the death of her mum is caught up in a school shooting and siege.


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