A black hoodie. A loaded rifle. Upturned tables and empty halls. The tropes of an American school shooting are so recognisable that they border on cliché. Since the massacre at Columbine twenty-two years ago, this imagery has appeared ubiquitously in the news, provoking feelings of terror, disgust, and resentment. So why has The Daily Wire, prolific conservative news network, chosen the first exclusive movie on its digital streaming service to be about such a volatile topic?
Directed and written by Kyle Rankin, Run Hide Fight takes its name from the school and workplace safety advice issued by many American organisations in the event of an active shooter. The film focuses mainly on the ‘fight’ aspect of this advice, in the vein of action thrillers such as Die Hard. The plot revolves around Zoe Hull (Isabel May), whose last week of term is interrupted by a school shooting, forcing her to confront the gunmen. The film is produced by Dallas Sonnier, known for 2017’s critically acclaimed Brawl in Cell Block 99. Although Sonnier’s links to sexual and worker abuse are subjects for another article (The Daily Beast published a damning report on this subject), the producer brings some indie pedigree to an otherwise amateur production team.
Strangely for a movie about such a charged topic, The Daily Wire sees Run Hide Fight as ‘not an overtly political film’. Matt Walsh, a journalist employed by The Wire, described it as ‘just a really good movie’ during a livestreamed premiere. However, The Wire’s editorial stance on this issue is inconsistent, as Jeremy Boreing has stated at the same premiere that the film is ‘chock full of our values’. This is a contradiction that strikes at the heart of The Wire’s founding myth: the story goes that Boreing, alongside now notorious pundit Ben Shapiro, founded the website as a response to what they perceived as a liberal bias in Hollywood filmmaking, striving to return to a time when entertainment was distanced from political ‘propaganda’. Ironically though, Run Hide Fight is an obvious vehicle for intense right-wing ideology.
Firstly, it is worth congratulating the film on some of its more successful elements. May’s performance as Zoe has been rightly praised by reviews in the Telegraph and IndieWire; she shines in her more fierce speeches, even if her characterisation is hampered by a melodramatic script. During some scenes, Zoe’s deceased mother, played by Radha Mitchell, appears to her in what can be assumed to be a projection of her imagination, an unrealistic and oversimplified depiction of grief, which invariably slows the pace of the film. In spite of this, May’s acting is consistent. The film’s cinematography is well produced, using wide mounted shots that lend a clear sense of space to the action, while the lighting is fairly successful at emphasising the film’s gritty tone, utilising flat and drab colours reminiscent of post-9/11 war films like American Sniper.
Run Hide Fight shows a conservative disdain for the bureaucracy of state organisations, and an overvaluing of individual heroism
Despite these skilful elements, the film is undermined by Rankin’s script. As well as the melodrama of Zoe’s relationship with her mother, the villains of the movie are poorly written. As Robbie Collin in the Telegraph points out, it is embarrassingly obvious that the inspiration for Tristan (Eli Brown), was Heath Ledger’s performance of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s superhero crime thriller The Dark Knight. Lines such as ‘humanity is a joke, and you my friend, are the punchline’ could have been taken directly from that film, which leaves Brown’s performance a poor imitation.
Unsurprisingly, this condemnation of nihilist philosophy mirrors The Wire’s politics. Perhaps the underlying ideological narrative propagated by writers like Shapiro is the usurpation of traditional values by social justice activists who aim to spark disorder and cultural upheaval. In Run Hide Fight, the shooters are emblematic of such concerns, committing atrocities as a result of self-absorbed nihilism. In a telling scene, Tristan is confronted by one of his captives, a heroic Christian who suggests that God will judge him for his crimes. Another strange addition to the film is the heavy implication of a bisexual love triangle between Tristan and two of his cronies. Surely this portrayal of LBGT characters as violent and unstable reflects The Wire’s homophobic ideology.
To suggest, then, that Run Hide Fight is not a political piece of entertainment is dishonest.
As well as portraying a symbolic attack on traditional values, Run Hide Fight shows a conservative disdain for the bureaucracy of state organisations, and an overvaluing of individual heroism. Throughout the film, it is emphasised that the school’s active shooter procedure puts lives at risk. Lockdown is not announced in time due to school protocols forcing officials to confirm that there is indeed a shooter in the building before sounding the alarm. When a security guard checks to confirm this, the shooters mock him for not being armed. The ineffectual response of school officials is often a point raised by proponents of the NRA’s ‘good guy with a gun’ initiative, endorsed by Donald Trump early in his presidency. Organisations such as the NRA argue that the safest way to protect children is by arming teachers and school security guards. The irony is that Run Hide Fight must construct an implausible scenario where a ‘good guy with a gun’ is necessary. In the film, it seems impossible that school officials would not hear the noise of the shooter’s weapons, and would therefore not require confirmation of an emergency. The film’s depiction of the police force is similarly damning, taking more than an hour and a quarter of the film’s runtime for armed officers to enter the building. Again, it seems implausible that police officials would take so long to act.
Instead of the state, Run Hide Fight depicts heroic individuals as the solution to the problem of school shootings. Zoe and her father both intervene directly in the situation, the latter using his personal weapons to fight the shooters, reflecting conservative talking points about inefficiency of the state and the necessity of firearms for self-defence. The ending of the movie depicts a kind of frontier justice, as Zoe chooses to execute Tristan rather than have him fairly tried. To suggest, then, that Run Hide Fight is not a political piece of entertainment is dishonest. Not only is it a poorly crafted movie, it is steeped in a dangerous ideology.