Danny Fulgencio
Before We Vanish by Steven Warner Film

Run Hide Fight | Kyle Rankin

January 22, 2021

Run Hide Fight can go fuck itself. 

Any film critic worth their salt can speak to the near-impossible task of reviewing films in a true vacuum, with personal biases, production knowledge, and the contextual influence of a director’s past works rendering objectivity a beautiful rarity. That’s especially true of a film like Run Hide Fight, what with its ties to a questionable production company that traffics in what can charitably be referred to as right-wing propaganda. Setting all of that aside, though, and taken solely on its own terms, Run Hide Fight accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: create a taut thriller that not only uses national tragedy as the genesis for its cheap genre thrills, but also serves as a piece of wish fulfillment for pro-gun hard-liners who believe that the only answer to violence is more violence. The purest exploitation flick released in ages, Run Hide Fight is some sort of unholy mash-up of Die Hard and Elephant, where a school shooting and hostage situation is interrupted by a lone student who has had enough of this shit and is going to take matters into her own hands, waging a one-woman war against her assailants. Luckily, the student in question, Zoe (Isabel May), is an expert hunter and markswoman whose convenient emotional detachment is on full display in the opening scene, where she bludgeons to death a wounded deer — the result of her own bullet — with a large boulder. Her survival instincts get quite a workout over the course of the next 105 minutes, which finds Zoe beating and shooting her way to justice.

Writer-director Kyle Rankin, who is a long way from his days as the meek filmmaker highlighted in season two of Project Greenlight, makes no bones about the type of film he is making: exploitative trash masquerading as provocation. He has no interest in mining the depths of his antagonists, who are reduced to harmful stereotypes: gay, afflicted by mental illness, victims of bullying, prone to dark clothing and heavy make-up. Indeed, the only person here given anything even remotely close to depth is Zoe, who uses the occasion to come to terms with the recent death of her mother, whose ghost takes the human form of Radha Mitchell and whom she converses with throughout the film. (Yes, you read that correctly.) For all that, Rankin actually does possess more than a modicum of talent behind the camera, utilizing the empty space in his widescreen compositions to create palpable tension. There is legitimate artistry to his visuals: the abandoned school hallways are cast in darkness, offset by the white brick walls that practically glow in the background, highlighting his slinking cast members in their game of cat-and-mouse. Elsewhere, an attack scene involving a room full of balloons that spill into the hall is particularly effective.

Yet, it has to be asked what the worth of such talent is when utilized for something so base and utterly reprehensible. When the comely Spanish teacher is forced to strip by one of the assailants, it is clearly not only for the eyes of the character, but for the film’s viewers’ as well. Simply put, it’s a vile film, insidious in its despicable presentation and in its agenda. It does nothing more than play on the fears and bigotries of its audience members and aim to confirm their disgusting biases. Objectively — frustratingly — Run Hide Fight is a well-made film that accomplishes its intended tension-building goals, and includes committed performances from the likes of May, Mitchell, Thomas Jane, and Treat Williams. Subjectively, everyone involved in the making of this film, and those who find enjoyment in such lowest-common-denominator “entertainment,” can go fuck themselves.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | January 2021.