Run Hide Fight: The Best Bloody Action Movie You Haven’t Seen
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Once we’ve addressed it, hopefully we can tranq it so the focus becomes cinema and not statesmanship. Run Hide Fight got a lot of attention when it was released in 2020. Alas, the vast majority of that attention was negative.
The bad press it received was leveled not at the movie itself but at the filmmakers behind the film for their decision to work with a certain media personality. More on this (briefly) later.
It’s something that has become far too commonplace in recent years—when one career critic attacks a film, every critic piles on and runs similar, if not identical, reviews. This is true of journalism in general nowadays, which often reads like op-ed instead of investigative reportage. It is especially true of lazy critics who boycott films they haven’t even seen.
That might sound like a bold claim, but if you read some of the press Run Hide Fight has received, particularly one hit piece that dismissed it as pornography for featuring a scene where a teacher is forced to remove her blouse at gunpoint, it is obvious the appraiser forgot their loupe. Either that or they stopped watching before a single button left its placket.
To be clear, there is no gratuitous nudity in Run Hide Fight, nor is the scene in question played for Skinemax effect. Rather, the act is depicted in shadows which preserve modesty. The scene manages to convey the violating nature of the shooter’s coercion without a single excessive or extraneous frame.
The experience of the active shooters is never truly fetishized the way gun violence has so frequently been fetishized in big Hollywood fare. In fact, the lead bad guy waves a knife around through most of the proceedings. This is not the trigger happy flick you might be expecting.
If it’s tits and ass you’re after, you won’t get it in Run Hide Fight. What you will get is an engaging story from the viewpoint of a damaged teenager who’s going through the stages of grief while grappling with the unthinkable.
Zoe (the formidable Isabel May) is a teenage girl who lives in rural America with her widowed father (Thomas Jane), a military vet who takes her hunting at the start of the story. We know almost immediately that Zoe is going through some shit. Writer-director Kyle Rankin manages to establish this effortlessly through an act that is as jarring for the audience as it is for Zoe’s old man.
Dad is concerned about his daughter’s mental well-being after the passing of her mother (Radha Mitchell) from cancer. The lesson he attempts to teach his daughter on an early hunting trip is one of mercy as much as self-reliance.
Rather than portraying the act of hunting as fun or sporty, the film exposes it as something of a necessity for lower-income families in flyover countries. Hence, Daddy-O’s impressed utterance about them having enough venison to last them all summer. Some jerkoff in a watchtower with a bow-and-arrow and a GoPro this is not; the act is up close, personal and almost halal… I said almost.
Eli Brown is fittingly terrifying as Tristan, the narcissistic mastermind behind the school shooting. He is at turns charismatic, funny, slimy, and straight-up creepy, channelling everyone from Scream‘s Stu Macher and O.C.-era Adam Brody to late-90s Marc Anthony in his portrayal of a pubescent sociopath.
I won’t give too much of the plot away but suffice to say it has a lot on its mind. During one key sequence, Tristan tells his teen hostages that internal incompetence and obligatory protocols will be the focus of conversations about that fateful day. “How do I know this?” he asks. “Because they publicly vote on this shit at town meetings.”
This and other lines underscore the need for top to bottom reform of school safety legislation, but they do so in a way that is neither preachy nor apparently motivated by any agenda other than the well-being of all Americans. You never get the impression as an audience member that someone is telling you how to feel, one way or the other.
For a film that’s been criticized for promoting a pro-gun agenda and handling gun violence in an allegedly irresponsible fashion, Run Hide Fight actually gives firearms far less screen time than they get in your average Hollywood blockbuster.
Tinseltown “hates” guns, but they love depicting them in their motion pictures. A-list silver fox George Clooney has said that he is scared of guns, but he didn’t mind wielding tons of them in From Dusk Til Dawn, a flick that also found him burning a man alive, killing his own brother and abandoning a fifteen-year old girl outside a cheap Mexican strip joint.
All told, Clooney has modeled more than 20 firearms in prominent movies and TV shows, including the one he used to shoot an unarmed man in the face in the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading.
Clooney is but one of the many high profile, highly-paid actors working today who advocate for gun control while advertising them in almost all of their notable projects. Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon, has stated that he wants the US to ban guns “in one fell swoop.” Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven co-star has handled 47+ revolvers and long guns throughout his career.
I get it, they’re props. They are also political props. But Run Hide Fight is not a political film.
But Run Hide Fight is not a political film.
This deftly-paced dramatic suspense film is no more violent or exploitative than any of the films I just mentioned. On the contrary, it is a heartfelt tale of bravery, empowerment, and love. The film only features one bonafide Hollywood star in Thomas Jane, but he’s barely in it and certainly doesn’t treat firearms as toys the way the abovementioned actors have throughout their canons of work. There is nothing Tarantino-esque about Run Hide Fight and it’s all the better for it.
Zoe’s closest contemporary is Louis (Olly Sholotan), the witty editor of the high school newspaper. Their conversation on the way to school feels like authentic banter between two long-time friends. Their playful back-and-forth does an equitable job of telling us who they are and what they want in an organic way; no massive exposition dump.
That’s a refreshing change from the dialogue typical of teen movies, which are almost always written by some out-of-touch screenwriter who thinks they know how kids talk because they read Parade’s ’50 Gen Z Phrases & What They Mean.’ Don’t expect any references to teachers being “cheugy” or Tristan acting “sus.” No cap.
It’s unfortunate that most reviews choose to focus more on who released the movie and the tangential implications of his involvement instead of acknowledging any of the story’s strong suits. After all, a movie review should focus on the content of the movie and not the distributor behind it. Just ask anyone who has ever gushed about one of the ever-aggrandized Quentin Tarantino’s many masterpieces.
It is worth noting that a work of art can touch on trending hot-button issues without being overly didactic, and that is just what Rankin has done so well with Run Hide Fight. It is also worth noting that this is not the first revenge film to become radioactive in recent years.
Eli Roth’s pointless remake of the genre classic Death Wish courted backlash in 2018 for its insensitive focus on vigilante justice. The difference is, Roth’s film reveled in its violence, while Rankin’s turns a horrified gaze on the subject. The heroes of Run Hide Fight are not smiling while they blow someone away, they are panting and cringing and shaking their heads at the pointless nihilism of the active shooters’ vigilantism.
Sometimes the kangaroo court of mainstream critics can undermine a work of art by letting their emotions and beliefs blind them to the value of the story the film is telling. All too often, critics fail to publish reviews of films and opt instead to publish critiques of the people that make them.
That’s why I decided to run this piece, in hopes of reassessing this controversial yet woefully underseen film, with more of a focus on the movie and its merits than on the personal lives or politics of the individuals who acquired it for exhibition.
I’ll also answer the burning questions that have been blowing up among curious parties, all of whom seem perplexed by the film’s lack of general availability.
Is Run Hide Fight Good?
Is it a perfect film? No. Let’s be real: how many films are? And what metric can be used to quantify something like that?
The truth is, Run Hide Fight is an above-average action-thriller with a lot of heart and some solid characters. That’s more than anyone can expect from a low-budget single location action movie.
The supporting cast do a serviceable job of behaving like real human beings instead of melodramatic hams. Genre vet Corin Nemec has a criminally small amount of screen time, but his brief presence manages to establish him as an actor worthy of more substantial roles.
Rankin’s picture is a starmaker for actor Isabel May who proves she can be as commanding a presence on a feature canvas as she can in an episodic format. More importantly, the film maintains a grip on the viewer with its claustrophobic sets and attention to detail.
The story is simple and straightforward, and it is told in a simple, stripped down way. For all of the disorienting editing, absurd pyrotechnics, and ADHD storytelling of big budget cinema, there is something to be said for austerity. As John Waters puts it, “I believe if you come out of a movie and the first thing you say is, ‘The cinematography was beautiful,’ it’s a bad movie.”
Run Hide Fight is not a bad movie or a flashy one. An early series of carefully-placed explosives and the resulting conflagrations around the film’s rural town serve as the diversion the film’s foursome of killers needs in order to execute their assiduous plan. The meticulously orchestrated siege is slowly revealed to us in a blunt, unglamorous fashion.
Does Run Hide Fight possess elements that strain credulity? Absolutely! A scene of stealth and retribution during the climax comes off more like wish fulfillment than a realistic scenario (where is the sheriff’s perimeter when this act occurs?), but aside from some minor moments that beg for suspension of disbelief, the movie is well-paced, mostly well-acted (with the exception of one genre actor who, frankly, wasn’t given anyone to riff off of), and generally thoughtful.
Is It Alt-Right Propaganda?
Sorry to disappoint those who were chomping at the bit to hate-watch this one, but Run Hide Fight is far from some MAGA shoot-em-up fantasy. If it were, I doubt the filmmakers would have featured mixed-race couples and a gay teacher.
They almost certainly wouldn’t have used terms like “shelter in place” and “trigger warning.” The former wasn’t even a term familiar to most Americans prior to 2020. Run Hide Fight went before cameras in 2019.
Any claims of the film being right-wing agitprop are unequivocally false as the story neither takes a definitive position on gun violence nor preaches the way most films tend to lately. If anything, Run Hide Fight calls for improved security protocols and sensible gun reform.
The pic’s central villain, a student named Tristan (as in Tristan and Isolde, the opera real-life school shooter Kip Kinkel was listening to as he murdered his parents), notes how easy it was for him to procure his arsenal of assault rifles. From the mouths of babes.
In this writer’s opinion, Rankin achieved what I believe he set out to achieve—telling the type of cinematic story that should be able to be enjoyed by two friends from opposing ends of the political spectrum without leaving either feeling underrepresented or belittled.
:: Minor Spoilers Ahead::
Run Hide Fight is more of a pro-teenager anti-bullying film than it is a pro-gun political commentary. Much of its runtime is devoted to the ways in which the educational system is failing America’s children, especially those who are most in need of guidance and psychiatric help. To call it a pro-revenge film would also be unfair and hyperbolic. Death Wish or Vigilante this is not.
None of the protagonists are particularly comfortable with the act of retribution, including one of the young gunmen who sobs as he replays the morning’s events in his head. One of the film’s (anti)heroes even willfully surrenders and is taken into custody after taking matters into their own hands.
The character in question takes their arrest in stride, without expressing any sense of entitlement or trying to justify their actions. Again, no political viewpoint is espoused, nor does any character come out looking cleaner than others. As revenge films go, this is one with a relatively negligible amount of unnecessary brutality.
Unlike vintage favorites like Coffy, Rolling Thunder or Sudden Impact, any vigilante justice meted out is handled with intelligence, restraint, and even mercy by its young heroine. Well… most of it. That is more than can be said for ninety-nine percent of revenge thrillers.
That is not to say that the film is without the requisite action. If anything, Run Hide Fight is effective because of the difficult balancing act its director pulls off, one where he depicts the horrors of a school shooting without glorifying the consequences of the same. Simultaneously, he sets his villains on a cat-and-mouse collision course that keeps things clever if mostly gore-free.
The “critics” that would call this movie disrespectful to the victims of real-life school shootings are the same people who hungrily binged Ryan Murphy’s Dahmer without a thought to the families of the young victims it so callously and graphically depicted.
Dahmer is a ten-hour deep dive into a real world sicko, one that glorifies the perpetrator as a poor, mixed-up individual while attempting to blame his atrocities on everyone (his parents, counselors, victims, society) other than him. By its conclusion, it seems to be asking its audience to shed a tear for the psychopath’s murder by a fellow convict.
By contrast, Run Hide Fight is a story that demands of its disturbed murderers accountability and punishment for their actions. There is nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t confuse justice and morality with politics since the three are rarely synonymous in reality.
Is Run Hide Fight Streaming?
Some readers will be disheartened to learn that this film from the director of Infestation and the producer of Bone Tomahawk is not available on mainstream platforms, such as Hulu, Netflix, or Prime.
Run Hide Fight streams exclusively on DailyWire+ in the United States. It is the first narrative feature to be released to the fledgling streamer. If you look up the movie on Justwatch, the service claims it isn’t available to stream anywhere. That is as incorrect as most of what you’ll hear about the flick.
Where is Run Hide Fight Available?
If you’ve been dying to see the movie, but your personal politics prevent you from subscribing to The Daily Wire’s new streaming arm, you can still get your hands on the movie… but expect to pay a premium for the privilege.
A used German DVD import cost me $23 before shipping on eBay. I can honestly say it was worth every penny. I have since watched the film three times and been increasingly impressed by its design.
Ben Shapiro acquired worldwide rights to Run Hide Fight in the wake of its Venice world premiere. That means you can’t see this movie unless you get it from a distributor to whom Shapiro has licensed the rights.
If this bothers you then feel free to miss out on one of the best indie films of 2020. Alternatively, you can sign up for a DailyWire+ subscription for $8.50 per month and cancel at any time… or do what I did and snatch up a physical copy, which plays on Region Free DVD players. At $23, that’s a sound investment since Run Hide Fight is the type of film that rewards repeat viewings.
Bob Freville is a writer, producer and director from New York. His LoFi vampire film Hemo was released by Troma. His X-rated bikersploitation novella The Filthy Marauders is available from The Evil Cookie Publishing. He is the writer-producer of the forthcoming Norwegian drug comedy The Scavengers of Stavanger. Look inside his head: @bobfreville