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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.12.19] thriller

Nothing takes me out of a movie as quickly as a character making not one but a series of stupid decisions. Case in point: Range Runners.

We first see Mel running through the woods. She looks fierce and determined, a woman with a place to be and little time to deal with anyone; she scarcely glances at the various people she passes on the path. She meets up with a woman in a parking lot who turns out to be her sister coming to provide "support" in Mel's personal marathon; I say personal because there's never any indication that there's actually a race.

After an evening of barbs that suggest deep-rooted family drama, Mel is once again on the trail except this time, she stops to help a random man who looks completely unprepared for a hike of any length (stupid decision one). This isn't particularly egregious, though generally, a lone woman running through the woods would most likely keep running, but when another man comes ambling through the woods, bleeding from a wound in his arm, it's clear that these guys are trouble but rather than running away, Mel sticks around and has an awkward conversation that clearly suggests these guys are up to no good (stupid decision two).

By this point, Range Runners is already entering problematic territory but when Mel has a second encounter with the same men a short time later and doesn't immediately take off (stupid decision three), things go bad for her quick.

It only gets worse from here as Mel makes one decision to help herself followed immediately by another that endangers her further. The movie's editing follows a similar trajectory by inserting flashbacks of Mel training with her father. These moments are supposed to provide insight into Mel's motivation but they're mostly flat and do nothing to help pacing. If anything, they break up any momentum writer/director Philip S. Plowden manages to generate with the thriller unfolding in the woods.

Cinematographer Darryl Miller does a great job off keeping the location interesting, often providing beautiful aerial shots which are helpful in highlighting Mel's tragic situation but just as things get interesting, there's another pause for a flashback.

While I really like some stretches of Range Runners and found Celeste M Cooper who plays Mel, really compelling, she, and really all of the characters, simply make too many problematic decisions that the movie doesn't overcome.

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