Run Hide Fight has a pretty edgy premise as far as indie action thrillers go. In an obvious riff of Die Hard, the story follows a young woman with a background as a survivalist who gets caught in a school shooting. Thanks to her background and knowledge of self defense, she decides to find a way to fight back against the armed students holding the cafeteria hostage.
That’s certainly not surprising if you know who made the film. The film comes from the same producers behind edge-lord films like Dragged Across Concrete, Bone Tomahawk and Stand-off at Sparrow Creek. When their studio Cinestate went belly-up last year (due to severe ethical issues within the company), their ongoing films like Run Hide Fight, Till Death and S. Craig Zahler’s newest film in development got thrown up into the air.
Thankfully, the film was picked up by the DailyWire who opened the film for distribution at their new streaming service! This move hasn’t gone without criticism of course. The Cinestate producers have developed a toxic reputation in Hollywood. The Daily Beast has gone out of its way several times to profile the situation in detail (although it’s clear in their venomous invective that they hated the people involved before the ethics scandal popped up).
Considering the film on its own terms, It’s not hard to see why they’d want the film. It carries the vaguely right-wing energy of self determination, individualism and moralism that appeals to a certain kind of conservative action movie fan. If it wasn’t for the topicality of the subject matter, I’d call it “traditional” if it weren’t for the edgy subject matter.
Set against the background of a school shooting, the film manages to craft a story that’s familiar in narrative terms and disturbingly familiar to our topical issues. Good guys are good guys. Bad guys are bad guys. The hero is at a disadvantage but has a unique skillset that makes her the perfect person to fight back.
Of course, that doesn’t make a story like this feel unquestionable. It almost feels exploitation all to use the backdrop of a school shooting for an action film. School shootings like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas shootings have been media firestorms and national tragedies that have ignited fierce and contentious cultural debates about mental health and gun rights.
After two and a half decades, these names still invoke deep cultural scares and pain.
The movie does seem to be aware of that. Run Hide Fight adds an interesting thematic snag to these contentious issues by turning it into a story about reclaiming narratives in favor of the victims of these shootings. It becomes a story about ripping the very essence of school shooters away from them and unveiling their pathetic cowardice.
Shootings almost always turn their actors into perverse celebrities. Such an attitude, festering in a national media firestorm, encourages future school shooters to seek out that infamy. Run Hide Fight adds an interesting snag by dressing down the scenario and creating a hero who turns her victimhood in empowerment.
All the school shooters we meet are revealed to be petty and vain monsters. The slow drip of revealing motivations comes to show how little they took to get pushed to the point of homicide by bullying and alienation.
Zoe’s story is the antithesis of this. Our heroine is driven by a sense of trauma and pain having lost her mother to cancer months before. As the story starts, she’s been systematically pushing away her loved ones and planning to join the army after high school.
The subsequent trauma of landing herself into an action-movie scenario ends up being the kick she needs to gear herself into action. Once the full breath of the situation comes into focus, her survival skills kick into action and she goes to war. Injured and alone, she’s at a disadvantage against five shooters. Her wits and drive end up being her only weapons.
Run Hide Fight finds an interesting inversion in the all too frequent story of the school shooting. By leaning into the exploitational nature of its premise, it captures a story of self determination and vengeance. It’s a scathing condemnation of a media culture that fetishizes celebrity anti-heroes and feeds into the mindset that creates more school shooters.