Run, Hide, Fight is a film written and directed by Kyle Rankin about Zoe Hull (Isabel May), a girl who gets caught up in a school shooting.
I know what you’re thinking – “How did a film like that ever get made in Hollywood? Who thought it was a good idea?”
To answer your questions, it didn’t and Dallas Sonnier. More to the point, films get made about every touchy subject imaginable. Or have you never heard of Schindler’s List? One of the jobs of an artist is to dig into the deepest, most uncomfortable aspects of our lives and help us reflect on them. Movies are made about rape, suicide and murder, perennial evils that touch many people you know and live with. A school shooting combines the last two and sensationalizes them, to be sure. But they’re not exempt from that artistic examination simply because they are sensational.
Especially if the sensational nature of the event is one of the things the film wants us to reflect on.
I’ll admit to being very, very skeptical of this film when I first heard of the premise. But, as it represents a new front in the ongoing disintegration of Hollywood (more on this in another post) I felt I should take a look at it, to see whether it was worthy of becoming a beachhead in the war against gatekeepers and censorship. As someone who watches movies critically – an occupational hazard – I find it hard to sit back and say, “I agree with this movie’s message so it’s okay.”
First off, I’m not sure Run, Hide, Fight really has a message, per se, other than, perhaps, “Stick up for yourself.”
But beyond that, I found that Run, Hide, Fight has a lot of technical and artistic merit to it. The premise of the film is simple. Zoe Hull’s mother recently died of cancer and she must reconcile her sense of loss and grief with her thoughts about the future. No, I didn’t expect this to be the premise of the film, either, but there it is. Run, Hide, Fight is as much about Zoe and her grief as it is about the physical threat she faces from Tristan and his merry band of murderers. As it turns out, Zoe needs to learn how to put aside her grief and move forward before she can help anyone in her school during their darkest hours.
This emotional conflict really works every time it comes up in the film, due in large part to strong performances by May and Rahda Mitchell, who portrays Zoe’s mother, Jennifer. Zoe clearly has some level of survivor’s guilt and she’s not getting much help from her father, Todd (Thomas Jane), an ex-Special Forces soldier and generally stoic individual. Rather than put her in therapy or try and help her through the grieving process himself, Todd teaches Zoe to hunt.
That brings us to the other half of Run, Hide, Fight, the part where bad things happen.
I actually found the buildup to Zoe’s fateful day at school really effective. It shows us the many layers of the morning in judicious, well timed cuts, taking us from Zoe’s morning routine to various events happening around town, events carefully calculated to slow police response to upcoming events. Finally, Zoe gets to school, struggles through the morning and breaks for lunch. She’s in the rest room when four deranged students lead by Tristan Voy (Eli Brown) drive a van into the cafeteria and everything goes south.
This physical conflict pleases me on many levels. First, the mechanics of it are well thought out. From the build up through the morning to Tristan’s final exit from the cafeteria, every decision made by Zoe, Tristan, the teachers and law enforcement is well justified by the narrative, the characters, the situation and some measure of good sense (or bad sense in the case of the villains). Beyond that, it lets us see Zoe achieve different kinds of victories over the villains. She wins a physical victory in a direct confrontation, a moral victory when she convinces one of the people involved to give up on the murder plot and a victory of faith when she carries on in the face of seeming defeat. Finally, the whole situation is portrayed without much melodrama. Certainly there’s a lot of emotion in the situation and we get a good look at a good deal of it. But it’s never rubbed in our face nor does it overstay its welcome. This aspect of the film could have gone very badly. But it was handled quite well, for the most part.
We’ll get to the part that wasn’t in a sec.
But I also want to praise the portrayal of Tristan. Brown delivers a masterful performance, oozing a creepy kind of charisma as he manipulates and intimidates, taunts and pontificates his way through his plot. No attempt is made to turn him into a victim of circumstance or a martyr for some kind of cause he ultimately betrays by his foolish actions. Tristan sees the world as a numbers game. But it isn’t money that matters to him. It’s prestige, it’s attention, it’s clout. Tristan is young, savvy and knows his social media. He’s here to bring about a landmark shift, to put his mark on history in ways no one else will ever be able to touch. His name will be immortal. He’s changing everything and the revolution will be televised.
Like all great villains, his own character destroys him. He goes from strutting for the cellphone cameras that broadcast his rants on every platform imaginable to juggling his own phones as he tries to keep in touch with his minions, all the while giving Zoe a perfect window into everything he’s doing. Ultimately that hubris gives Zoe the opportunity to overwhelm the legend he’s aiming to build and replace it with her own. This is the kind of carefully calculated poetic justice that I’ve found sadly lacking in entertainment of late. I definitely savored the moment when it came.
Run, Hide, Fight is not a perfect movie. There are a lot of tiny flaws in it, but only one that I found really egregious. That was the final resolution. In many ways the film slightly overstays its welcome, tacking on about five minutes of extra runtime that attempt to bookend the story but wind up feeling forced and melodramatic. In addition, they create one major plot issue I just can’t overlook, a moment of painful incompetence on the part of the police that is particularly disappointing given how carefully all the other decisions by authority figures are handled.
I respect what the film is trying to do with this sequence. Zoe is taking away the last sliver of hope Tristan had of succeeding at some part of his plan, cementing a total victory and confirming that she is, in fact, a survivor in control of her own future once again. I just don’t think the last few minutes of the film succeed on either a mechanical or emotional level. That’s a pretty big shortcoming in my book, but not enough of one to outweigh the very competent work the film does with the rest of its run time. If you enjoy good films that combine action with deep emotional moments, and you can look past the fact that the backdrop for the action is a school shooting, I would strongly recommend watching Run, Hide, Fight.
But because Hollywood wouldn’t touch this movie with a 20ft pole you can only watch it streaming on somewhat controversial conservative media site The Daily Wire. We’re back to the whole bit about beachheads against Hollywood again. I think that’s something to look at next week. See you then.
Reminder that I have an ongoing comic crowdfunding project for Hexwood: Dust and Ashes, a weird western comic set in the same world as Firespinner. Give it a look here: