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Range Runners Movie Review

Written by Rebecca McCallum

Released by Dark Star Pictures and Uncork'd Entertainment

range runners poster big

Directed by Philip S. Plowden
Written by Devon Colwell and Philip S. Plowden
2019, 111 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 8th, 2020

Starring:
Celeste M Cooper as Mel
Sean Patrick Leonard as Wayland
Michael B. Woods as Jared
Tiffany Renee Johnson as Chloe

Review:

Life is full of obstacles and as we watch a high school girl (Mariah Gordon) take position on a sport track the shot pans to an endless line of hurdles, symbolising the struggles that lie ahead. This is a formative moment in the life of a now adult woman, Mel (Celeste M Cooper) as told through a series of flashbacks representing her own memories. A cross-country runner, Mel is not simply pushing her body beyond its limits but is also seeking to free herself from the oppressive roots of her past. The duration of Range Runners takes place in woodland, a perfect setting for our protagonist’s latest endurance test, and sees her become intertwined with Wayland (Sean Patrick Leonard) and Jared (Michael B Woods), a pair of small-time criminals whose drug exchange has gone horribly wrong. At first, all they claim to want is Mel’s backpack, but things begin to unravel unpredictably when they realise that this woman is no shrinking violet and is always ready to bring her A Game.

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In an early scene with her sister Chloe (Tiffany Renee Johnson), we learn that Mel ‘doesn’t have to prove anything, least of all to him’ which plants a seed of intrigue at just the right moment and allows us to keep coming back to this as events move forward. Throughout the film, we question if she is running to something or from it and the intercuts between the present and the past keep both possibilities fresh at all times. As a woman alone in the woods, Mel proves that she can take care of herself and once she encounters the two male antagonists, she quite frankly owns the situation and the screen. Radiating all round bad-ass vibes in a way that does not feel contrived or overdone, Mel is totally and utterly empowering. This is owed to the incredible performance of Celeste M Cooper who makes the character feel like a rally cry to women everywhere who are looking for a female-affirming force in the genre.

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The machoistic Wayland and a more gentle-natured Jared make for a balanced pairing of villains and, upon being met with Mel’s knife (in this horror film, the woman wields the weapon, not the man), things take a turn in a brutal direction. In one of the most beautifully crafted misdirects I’ve seen, involving a belt buckle, the film succeeds in pulling at not just our fears but our deepest emotions. The woodland setting, which must be a gift for any cinematographer, is as much a part of the film as any character and is at once disturbing and breath-takingly immersive. There is also superbly creative use of transitional shots between the past and the present which enrichen the overall experience and have clearly been given considerable thought and attention. Once the film hits its last act it perhaps outstays its welcome a little (one hour 51 minutes is a mammoth running time for even the best of horror films). However, this does not detract from both the impressive, unravelling plot structure in the final half hour and the sheer originality which is, for me, its greatest credit. Fresh, bold and one of a kind, Range Runners demands your attention and what’s more it is thoroughly deserved.

Grades:

Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover
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