Review by Sean Boelman
The new crime drama Run with the Hunted can’t be faulted for a lack of inspiration, as writer-director John Swab’s loose take on the Oliver Twist tale is undeniably ambitious. Yet despite a wealth of good ideas, Swab tries to cram too much into too short of a period of time, resulting in a film that is messy and disorganized.
The movie tells the story of a gang leader who, fifteen years after going on the run for committing a crime in the name of love, encounters the woman with whom he used to be infatuated, sending his life of crime into a spiral. It’s a story we’ve seen before, but Swab goes about differentiating it in the wrong way, leaning too hard into the grittiness to have a legitimately effective character-driven story.
The first half, which features the characters as children, is legitimately strong. There are some moments of pure brilliance sprinkled throughout this forty-five minutes, addressing some timely and interesting themes. On the other hand, the portion of the film with them as adults needed to be at least a half hour longer to hit all of its marks.
Swab has a lot on his mind with this movie, with the main theme exploring the ethics of death. He poses the question of whether or not death is a fair punishment for someone causing nothing but harm. And while this idea easily could have been mirrored into the second half as the protagonist began to make some of the same mistakes himself, this is largely abandoned.
Also frustrating is the fact that the second half mostly ignores the more interesting characters from the first half. Audiences will be left wanting more from the new “family” that the protagonist finds for himself, but the second half pivots to having a different character as the center of the story, leaving those threads unanswered.
The cast that was assembled for the film is pretty great. Young actor Mitchell Paulsen does an excellent job as the kid version of the protagonist, and Michael Pitt, while over-the-top at times, is able to capture much of the same emotion as his adult counterpart. In the supporting cast, Ron Perlman and Isiah Whitlock Jr. are both good, albeit a bit underused.
And while the movie doesn’t look bad, Swab is obviously trying a bit too hard to make it play seriously, preventing it from working as the pulpy action romp that it could have been. There are some excellent sequences, like one in which the characters hold up a supermarket, but these are disappointingly few in number.
Run with the Hunted shows quite a bit of potential, but more often than not, it falls flat. Still, there is enough here to make it worth a watch even if there are far better versions of this story to have been made.
Run with the Hunted hits VOD on June 26.