In this new version of the old world, things are certainly different in just about every walk of life. For some of us out there – some of us who cherish film, the history of the movies, and the movie theater experience – we have been forced to come to the realization that movies may not be delivered again in the way we think upon them with so much nostalgia. Things change, priorities shift, and sometimes a pandemic reminds us that nothing lasts forever.
But all is not lost. Certain portions of the industry may be suffering, and it’s hurting many people in all the regular economic ways. Beyond that, the cultural gap between traditional Hollywood and flyover country is growing at an alarming rate now. But, from great change an upheaval comes great opportunities in the void. Now is the time for smaller films to sneak into the mainstream and new distribution circles to spring up somewhere other than Southern California. It’s time for pioneers to build their brand, and that’s clearly what The Daily Wire is attempting to do with their dynamite new action-thriller, Run Hide Fight.
Controversy surrounds both The Daily Wire and the very existence of Kyle Rankin’s school shooting action flick, arguably one of the best Die Hard riffs in 25 years. Any hubbub over the involvement of Ben Shapiro’s news company, with a film produced by Cinestate’s scandalized founder (now the head man of Bonfire Legend) Dallas Sonnier, is empty and useless when it comes to the picture in question. Most of the backlash is just posturing from a group of lemmings; early reviews of Run Hide Fight on Letterboxd has half star ratings with crybabies sobbing about The Daily Wire and Shapiro. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 22% positive with “professional critics” and 97% with general audiences, which probably tells you all you need to know. It’s pitiful, because in their act of brave online heroism where they slam a movie they refused to watch, or one they reluctantly hate watch, it turns out they missed a pretty good one.
The star of Run Hide Fight is Isabel May, who plays Zoe Hull, a hardened high school senior who has shut herself off from just about everyone after the death of her mother. We still see her mother, played by Radha Mitchell in conversational flashes, a gimmick that shouldn’t work as well as it does. Zoe barely talks to her retired military father, played by Thomas Jane, and her only friend is Lewis (Olly Shotolan), who fancies her for the upcoming prom. She knows how to handle a weapon, sure, but she isn’t some sort of gun toting NRA spokesperson in sheep’s clothing. Even the tattered green Army jacket she wears – her father’s – is more of a protective barrier from social interaction than any sort of outward projection.
Thanks to the sort of contrivance that’s all but required in these siege films, Zoe is in the bathroom when three wayward seniors drive a van full of explosives into the cafeteria windows and begin shooting innocent students dead on the spot. This is the most upsetting stretch of the film, but Rankin’s screenplay makes a wise choice to tell the story he wants to tell, while making the medicine go down in what could be an increasingly grim and dyspeptic picture. The villains, led by Eli Brown’s manic, moody Tristan, have an approach to the bleak materials like action movie villains. There is a heightened level of their villainy to pull us ever so slightly away from a reality that would be too harsh. Had this film leaned into the dour mood with truly unsettled, lost teens, not these arcane versions of baddies, the action beats wouldn’t be so effective.
Zoe gradually transforms into a high school version of John McClane, but not the superhero pinball of Live Free or Die Hard and Die Hard… 5 (whatever that one was called). This eighteen-year old female version of John McClane is from the original Die Hard: reluctant, outgunned, tough, resilient, burdened with family tensions. She slinks through air ducts and endures one substantial wound after another until she’s bloodied and broken, all the while saving countless students and teachers; the entire structure of Run Hide Fight is a clever callback to John McTiernan’s classic. It’s also a movie that shines a light on certain flaws and loopholes in school security procedures, while at the same time wisely sidestepping any honest psychological examination of the troubled shooters.
Whatever disdain hurled at Run Hide Fight from the predictable places should be taken with the tiniest grain of salt imaginable, because their beef is not with the movie. It’s with themselves, and their inability to reconcile with the existence of a culture separate from their own. This is a good film, capturing a disturbing subject matter tastefully, with the right notes of cinematic liberty and reality. It is consistently exciting and never gratuitous. It’s a delicate balance, but Kyle Rankin threads the needle admirably. The violence is shocking, but not exploitative; after the early assault, most of the intense innocent bloodshed gives way to an effectively standard action/thriller plot. The camera captures shadows and silhouettes, fireballs in the distance and bodies often out of focus, in the dark. To say this sort of movie shouldn’t exist because of the horrible things it mirrors from real life, allow me to point you to literally hundreds of movies in just about every genre dealing with real tragedy and real heartbreak.
Sometimes, that’s where the best stories are told.