'Run With the Hunted': Film Review

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
More like a slow jog.
6/26/2020

Michael Pitt, Dree Hemingway and Ron Perlman star in Jon Swab's crime thriller about a teenage boy who falls in with a gang of young criminals.

The literary references come flying fast and furious in Jon Swab's crime thriller set largely in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The film's central character is first seen as a young boy who runs away after committing murder, only to fall in with a group of criminal "lost boys" (and girl) who perform their illegal acts under the leadership of a Fagin-like adult. Between those nods to Peter Pan and Oliver Twist and the stylistic homages to '70s-era cinema, audiences can be forgiven for thinking that the filmmaker may be attempting to bite off more than he can chew.

It's a shame, because you can see what Run With the Hunted is going for and, for a while at least, you find yourself hoping for it to succeed. The film boasts pungent atmosphere, as well as hard-hitting performances by leading man Michael Pitt and such reliably good character actors as Ron Perlman and Isiah Whitlock Jr. Unfortunately, the promising elements never coalesce into a satisfying or engrossing whole.

The story revolves around Oscar (Mitchell Paulsen, initially), whose best friend is nearby neighbor Loux (Madilyn Kellam). Oscar is close to his dad (William Forsythe, another familiar screen veteran), but Loux has a much tougher time at home. Her drunken father (Brad Carter) frequently abuses her and her brother Amos (Evan Assante), eventually prompting the horrified Oscar to take matters into his own hands and kill the lout in his sleep with a fireplace poker.

Oscar goes on the run, somehow making it to Tulsa, where he meets a runaway teenager who calls herself Peaches (Kylie Rogers). She brings him home to the warehouse where she lives with a group of errant children she refers to as her "family of broken toys." They perform such petty crimes as shoplifting and pickpocketing under the guidance of Sway (Mark Boone Junior, making his usual strong impression), who welcomes the newcomer. "What we provide here is an education," Sway announces. "And me, I'm the headmaster."

If Sway is the headmaster, then the dean of the school is local gangster Birdie (Perlman), who uses it to train the young miscreants for bigger and better criminal activities when they turn older. Birdie takes an instant liking to the spunky Oscar and takes him under his wing.

Cut to fifteen years later, when the now grown Oscar (Pitt) and Peaches (Dree Hemingway of Starlet and Listen Up Philip) are still working for Birdie and are now a couple as well. The later timeframe includes a subplot involving a young woman (Sam Quartin) who begins working as a secretary for an ornery private investigator (Whitlock Jr.) with ties to Birdie. When she starts making inquiries about a young boy who went missing fifteen years earlier, her relationship to the rest of the story becomes clear.

Director/screenwriter Swab (Let Me Make You a Martyr) seems to be aiming for a dark, mythic morality tale, but falls short of providing the necessary components to make it fully resonate. The literary allusions woven into the material feel awkward and contrived, and the crime thriller aspects, except for a well-orchestrated sequence involving a grocery store robbery, rarely produce suspense.

And despite the effective performances, we never feel any emotional connection to the thinly drawn characters. Realistic enough to be implausible and fantastical enough to seem ridiculous, Run With the Hunted fails to draw us in to its eccentric vision. It seems more than a little lost itself.

Production company: Roxwell Films
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Michael Pitt, Sam Quartin, Ron Perlman, Mark Boone Junior, William Forsythe, Dree Hemingway, Isiah Whitlock Jr., William Forsythe
Director/screenwriter: John Swab
Producers: Jeremy M. Rosen, John Swab
Executive producers: Gore Abrams, Jordan Abrams, Josh Crook, Giles Daoust, Catherine Dumonceaux, Mark Farrow, Michael Hedin, Matthew Helderman, Glenn Hudgens, Wes Hull, Ali Jazayeri, Dave Lugo, David Moscow, Ron Perlman, Andre Relis, Todd Remis, Luke Taylor, Scott Thomas, Renee Willett, Ken Williams, Viviana Zarragoita
Director of photography: Matt Clegg
Production designer: Jose Cavazos
Editor: Jon Greenhalgh
Composer: Sam Quartin
Costume designer: Alyssa Blair Cawthon
Casting: Jeremy M. Rosen, John Swab

Available on demand.

92 minutes