This is the last film Americans need to see right now. A country already grappling with mass shootings and gun control does not need to watch a gratuitous carnage, a film that neither raises nor answers any questions about the reasons behind such horrific massacres. Instead, it just satisfies the voyeuristic fantasies and quenches the thirst for blood of audiences that have become desensitised to extreme violence.
In this entirely predictable drama, Zoe Hull (Isabel May) is trapped in her high school while a few disgruntled pupils lock, psychologically torture and shoot their mates in the building’s cafeteria. They are led by the Tristan Voy (Eli Brown), supported by his clumsy sidekicks Chris (Britton Sear) and Kip (Cyrus Arnold). Meanwhile, Chris’s sister Anna (Catherine Davis) is placing bombs around the building. Tristan demands that the entire ordeal is broadcast live on social media. To his delight, he’s soon on television. Countless bullets, stabbings and explosions will follow.
This is the same old “American hero” versus “bad guys” story told one million times before. Tristan is plain evil, with an arrogant and sadistic smile permanently attached to his face (the kind of HUWAHAHAHAAAA villain). Zoe is a dignified, selfless and resilient 17-year-old. She is very skilled with large weapons, and never afraid to take matters into her own hands, stepping in where the adults failed to take action. She is some sort of gun-toting, right-wing version of Greta Thunberg (who is also featured in the Festival). A very strange ghost of her mother is constantly by her side encouraging her daughter to fight. She constantly makes very sarcastic and witty remarks to her living girl. As ghosts do.
The biggest problem with this adrenaline-inducing action movie (and there are many) is that it does little to challenge the extreme violence being perpetrated. Instead, it seeks to legitimise it. Firstly, it normalises the behaviour of the attackers with a very shoddy bullying pretext. Of course, being bullied explains why people carry out mass shooting; that has nothing to do with the country’s failure to implement gun control. Secondly, it encourages vigilantism. It’s perfectly natural and even commendable that you should take arms and shoot down the bad guys when the institutions fail to do it. Zoeisn’t the only one doing it: her father is a skilled sniper ready to protected the poor little kids.
There is absolutely nothing original and remarkable about Run, Hide, Fight. It is a very mediocre mass shooting movie. It does not have the dry subtleties of Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003), the psychological depth of We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011), or even the palpable realism of U – July 2 (Erik Poppe, 2018) . It also lacks the the ingeniousness of Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997), a film that depicts gratuitous, sadistic violence without graphically illustrating the attacks per se.
Run, Hide and Fight was one of the American entries at the 77th Venice International Film Festival, when this piece was originally published. It’s unusual for the Festival to pick up such a conventional genre movie. Our advice to you: run and hide from it!
Out in the UK in March as part of the virtual version of the Glasgow Film Festival.