Run with the Hunted

This picture written and directed by John Swab has a by-now standard issue low-budget genre film opening: two desperate characters in a car, driving by night to God knows where, one of them wounded, perhaps grievously. You know they’re in a “gritty urban setting” because they’re suffused with red light. So what’s going on, you’re supposed to ask.

Well, there’s a flashback, to blue sky and small town and seemingly idyllic childhood and someone reading in voiceover from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Aren’t you glad you asked? The briefly happy kid is Oscar, who’s soon quizzed by his dad William Forsythe about the sermon he heard in church that day. “You see, Oscar, there comes a time when a man’s gotta step up.” Oscar, played in his boyhood incarnation by Mitchell Paulson, takes that directive a little too much to heart by killing the abusive father of his best friend Loux. Secreting himself in the back of a milk truck, he escapes to The Big City, where he’s briefly detained and then bounced into the street where he meets a new girl best friend, Peaches.

Remember how The Catcher In The Rye opens with Holden Caulfield telling the therapist (or caseworker, who ever it is) that he doesn’t wanna bore him with any “David Copperfield crap?” With Peaches, “Run with the Hunted” gets into Great Expectations crap, with Oscar joining a group of street urchins overseen by grizzly man Mark Boone, Jr., who is himself overseen by moderately smoother crime underboss Ron Perlman. Hell, maybe it’s really just the “Bugsy Malone” variant of “Where The Day Takes You.”

At the halfway point, cute-as-a-button Oscar becomes Michael Pitt Oscar. Playing a grownup criminal street urchin isn’t a stretch for Pitt, and so he does that routine, with adult Peaches, now played by Dree Hemingway, with shaved head and a semi-goth strip-club get-up for working hours. It’s a hardscrabble life for sure, and Perlman’s character is still overseeing it. But a reckoning seems to be in the offing. Director Swab handles this all with due dispatch and an ability that’s a hair or two above what you’d call mere competence. One has to give him that. But not a whole lot more.

In any event, a complication arrives in the form of grown-up Loux (Sam Quartin), who takes a job with an amusingly irascible private eye (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and picks up the trail, there, of her lost childhood friend. Their paths physically cross almost immediately, which is a hair improbable, but also fortunate because it helps this irritating film, with its cheap earnestness and its look-at-me-I’m-an-autodidact literary pretension (the title is a Bukowski lift, oh wow), reach its finale that much faster.

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