Run FROM this one, don’t run to it
Run is the follow-up to 2018's Searching that we've all been waiting for, and it's a tremendous disappointment. Writer/Director Aneesh Chaganty is certainly a filmmaker worthy of praise. I absolutely loved his mystery/thriller Searching which was constructed using social media, apps, security cameras, phone cameras, screen captures of computers, and all sorts of unorthodox methods of filmmaking - which is what made it so fun and engaging. His sophomore effort Run is much more straightforward, although his signatures are still present - but it feels more like an inexperienced director handled this film. The film came across to me as a run-of-the-mill Hallmark movie of the week in its writing, direction, and often times, acting. The inexperience as a straightforward live action director here shows.
The Lackluster Screenplay
The screenplay had far too many conveniences, implausible events, and too much flawed logic for the film as a whole to be taken entirely seriously. The dialogue was also straight out of B-movie attempts at a professional-sounding thriller. The film also featured two identical scenes which offered no new information or context, which is not just a misstep or an oversight, but a rookie mistake to say the least. The premise was more than enough to grab the viewer's attention. I was at least in it for the lead-in and part of the setup, but the film collapses on itself when it really has nothing new or interesting to say. So much of the film's plot was so contrived, it never felt as if it was going anywhere meaningful - nor did it ever feel inspired. Scene after scene, I could tell that the screenplay was just excited about premise alone, and not about any sort of substance to stand on. It's certainly interesting on the surface, but the more you dive in, the more frustrating it becomes. The "twist" in the film is also another implausible happening that I couldn't help but roll my eyes at. There's a distinct possibility that this may work for some, but not for me.
Searching for a Director
As stated, the direction feels more like it was from a first time director, rather than a sophomore effort. Sophomore slump? Perhaps. It felt to me as if he told the actors to overact in very nearly every scene which required any sort of emotion or extra exertion. The scenes were also mostly basic shot/reverse shot. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it feels hackneyed. In addition, this felt way more like a B-movie or Hallmark MOW, which is not at all what this was going for. The scenes were lacking depth as everything appeared to be surface level, rather than trying to get at the heart of what the film was supposed to be about. The film opted more for cheap thrills, rather than earned thrilling moments that actually meant something. "You can't escape a mother's love." Turns out, you can't escape inexperienced direction, either.
This leads me to my next point about the overacting. As I mentioned before, it felt like the director had told the actors to overact in much of these scenes, which he felt required it (most of them). Now, there is something to be said for actually casting a handicapped woman to play a handicapped role. I respect and appreciate that. And, she acted quite well for most of it. However, at times it felt like a bit much to me. More than that, Sarah Paulson seemed to bring too much to nearly every scene. She is a wonderful actress, so nothing against her. But, it needs to be said that she was way over-the-top with her acting for the vast majority of the film. Too much of a (seemingly) good thing, can be a bad thing in my eyes. It's my understanding that Kiera Allen was introduced in this film, being her first major role. So, I can't be too hard on her and she is to be commended for how well she played it for a good portion of the film. There was a sequence in which she had to drag herself across the floor (and a roof) and this just included a bunch of grunting and groaning (a-la Leo in The Revenant) - so, kudos to her for her efforts there. Again, too much overacting was a bit overwhelming for me.
Overall, Run was a mishandled and misguided effort at a Hollywood contained horror/thriller which really just came off as a done-up B-level thriller, sporting some A-list talent. The problems lie with the not-so-well thought-out screenplay an inexperienced director at the helm. The over-acting from the co-leads certainly did not help matters any as the film did not have any forward momentum, except for the derivative and uninspired thrills that were meant to have some sort of propulsion to the film, but ultimately fell flat. I knew exactly where the film was going at all times, so this left a void of much-needed tension. The aspects of the film that were meant to have praise, were mentioned but were far from enough to save the film as a whole. I've been seeing a bunch of reviews on Letterboxd which state, "Dumb, but fun. Just the way I like it." No. We need to stop rewarding mediocrity.
It's my hope that Chaganty will have a comeback with his third time (charm) around. Searching is still a gem and you should seek it out (if you haven't already), and run from this one. I also look forward to anything that Kiera Allen finds herself in. She seems to have a promising career ahead of her. Also, keep doing your thing, Sarah Paulson.
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Run is a Hulu Original Film and is currently streaming on Hulu.