In this line of business you receive many emails from PRs ‘reaching out’ about their particular film, which I really must see, as it wowed a festival in Bulgaria. But the other day, a PR reached out to boast excitedly about a film because it had been savaged, which was a first. ‘The film has absolutely enraged Hollywood critics,’ this person wrote, with obvious pride, before quoting the following from reviews: ‘insanely poor taste’, ‘wildly misjudged’, ‘tone deaf’, ‘gross’. What’s more, this person continued, while critics hate it — it has a critics’ score of 25 per cent at Rotten Tomatoes, the review- aggregator site — audiences are loving it (93 per cent). OK, send it my way, I said, because I was curious, and can also be a fool.
The film is Run Hide Fight, which is set amid a high school shooting and had been declared hateful, I was told, because it ‘doesn’t push the usual left-wing agenda on gun control’. It was picked up by the right-wing website Daily Wire, where it is available to subscribers who, given they are subscribers, might be predisposed to love it. What’s unarguable is that they certainly do. It’s ‘the best action thriller ever’. And: ‘Don’t listen to critics, they are clowns.’ And even: ‘Great film… it’s why I want my kids to take their own guns to school.’ I was minded to point out that as you can’t trust kids to pick up a towel or remember their keys you’d probably best not trust them with a lethal weapon, but maybe I’m just being too ‘left-wing’?
Written and directed by Kyle Rankin, the film is basically Die Hard, transported to a school setting, minus Bruce Willis in a vest. Instead we have Zoe (Isabel May), a 17-year old who has recently lost her mother to cancer and has emotionally closed down. Her ex-military father, in a bid to connect, takes her hunting, as you do. Zoe shoots a deer but it’s wounded, not dead, so as her father is telling her she must end the animal’s suffering she picks up a rock and does just that. The deer is put out of its misery early on, at least.
Next, we travel with Zoe to school, where she has shut off from her peers. If you’re wondering what might ultimately heal her, and what the most effective grief therapy might be, then you need to exclude the usual suspects, like counselling. What she needs, apparently, is the redemptive power of firearms and violence. Narratively, this all kicks off when a van crashes into the school cafeteria and four gun-wielding teens jump out — ‘trigger warning!’ yells their leader — and immediately mow down a few students, with blood splattering everywhere. However, they do later spare a disabled student because, even though Hitler would have killed them to protect ‘the master race’ from ‘deformity’, that’s not their way — ‘we’re not Nazis’ — which shows they do have a good side. Zoe, who was in the bathroom when the van arrived, escapes by crawling through an air duct, makes it to the outside, but then opts to return, as she is brave and determined to save the friends she’s not friendly with. She acquires her own gun along the way.
The film has no psychological depth beyond offering up the occasional cliché — one of the shooters was bullied at school, for instance. It’s predictable, repetitive, exploitative action apart from a few asides when, say, one female teacher is made to strip, which serves no purpose story-wise, but may appeal to Daily Wire subscribers.
It’s overall message is simple: America’s gun problem can only be solved by more guns and you’ll win the day so long as Daddy has taught you how to use one. But to finish on a positive note, no animals were hurt in the making of the movie. Apart from that deer at the outset. Which was actually shot. For real.
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