The UK premiere of Run Hide Fight takes place at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. This action feature from writer-director Kyle Rankin presents a hostage situation at an American high school, using this is a vehicle for a surprisingly well-crafted action film – despite the tone deaf nature of the plot.
Seventeen year-old Zoe Hull (Isabel May) is still suffering from the loss of her mother (Radha Mitchell), despite attempts from her father (Thomas Jane) to support her. She has lost interest in high school and her relationship with her boyfriend Lewis (Olly Sholotan) is struggling. However, an attack by a group of live-streaming armed students in the lunch hall prompts her to act up and fight for her life and those of her schoolmates.
Packed with all the US high school clichés you can imagine from over-it teachers to outlandish senior pranks and prom proposals, Run Hide Fight’s set up is not one that promises originality. If this is what high school is like then there is no wonder Zoe is mentally done with it. The originality does not particularly improve from there with Run Hide Fight delving into the traditional hostage/siege narrative with little desire to add any sense of depth to the armed student’s cause. The leader of the group, Tristan Voy’s (Eli Brown) main motivation seems to be being sent to the Principal’s office the previous week and subsequently students are blown left, ring and centre by the group of their armed peers. From an action standpoint, it’s well-shot, tense and explosive and ultimately attention grabbing, yet from a moral standpoint feels tone deaf and exploitative in the wake of countless US school shootings. Without attempting to deconstruct the intentions of the armed students or critique US gun laws, its somewhat challenging to enjoy the action without having a bad taste in your mouth.
Intriguing spins are introduced, yet the potential from these feels a little untapped: such as the armed students live streaming the events on social media and using Zoe’s boyfriend Lewis to do so because he has the most followers. This serves mainly as a way to increase the exploitative nature of the film – shooting students on a live stream. Perhaps Rankin wanted an allegory on the exploitative nature of social media – the fact we market/sell ourselves online on a daily basis – but it’s hard to see past the grisliness.
Despite the lack of depth or subtlety, one cannot deny that Rankin has crafted an impressive action/survival spectacle. Zoe operating behind the backs of the armed students in an attempt to free the remaining students is impressively tense, especially given the emotive nature of the film’s context. This makes way for some well-shot and sharply edited brutal action sequences with Zoe attempting to evade or take down the hostage-takers. Isabel May is convincing in these moments and equally impressive in Run Hide Fight’s more heartfelt moments where she communicates with her late mother.
There is enjoyable support from genre favourites including Thomas Jane as the grizzled veteran father who gets a few moments of action to shine. Barbara Crampton is welcome support as a school science teacher and Treat Williams adds further character as the Sheriff attempting to handle the situation from the outside.
Run Hide Fight is a nifty survival thriller with some tense direction and well-crafted action spectacle, it is just unfortunate that it has a sense of shallowness when it comes to depicting quite traumatic, and unfortunately very real events in the US.