The term “Run-Hide-Fight” is a set of options that are recommended to government security personnel who are in an “active shooter” scenario, in which at least one gunman enters a building with the intent to fatally shoot as many victims as possible. It’s also the title of an action survival thriller distributed by the Daily Wire early last year. Imagine Die Hard (1988) at a high school instead of a skyscraper with a survivalist-trained teenage girl instead of an off-duty police officer and a Heath Ledger-esque Joker seeking internet infamy rather than a methodical crook stealing securities, and you get the idea.

Having learned about the film through the Critical Drinker on youtube, I watched Run Hide Fight and read the reviews afterwards. Of course, the elite detested it and it became the source of considerable derision by leftist critics. Big surprise. But then why? My conclusion was that Run Hide Fight (RHF) promoted “agency” – the self-motivated decision to think carefully, evaluate options, and execute those operations while improvising as the crisis develops. This very American response clashes hard against the collectivist hive-driven mindset that animates your average snowflake woke film. Whatever happened to Barak Obama’s slogan “Yes we can!”? Well, apparently that’s not what they meant in a crisis situation.

A Standard Story with Different Take

RHF is about a day in the life of high school senior Zoe Hill (Isabel May) who lives with her father Todd, a retired Army sniper (Thomas Jane, whom some might recognize as Josephus Miller from The Expanse). She joins him on a deer hunt, before riding off to school with her boyfriend Lewis (Olly Shlotan). While at the cafeteria, she excuses herself, when moments later a white van crashes through the glass wall, and three fellow students emerge with guns. Led by the main nemesis Tristan Voy (Eli Brown), they shoot a few nearby witnesses and intimidate the remainder while giving them instructions to live-stream the horrid events unfolding. The trio holds everyone hostage in the cafeteria while invading classrooms to bring more students and faculty there.

Having avoided the initial encounter, Zoe exits the building, but then goes back in and encourages others to also egress the building. Meantime, faculty and staff implement their lockdown policy of shelter-in-place until civil authority arrives. However, Tristan has nullified this plan by diverting local law enforcement and fire departments with pre-arranged distractions, assisted by an on-campus accomplice to disable communication and electrical power. The principal is brutally murdered after ineffectively using pop psychology to diffuse the situation, while the school’s security personnel have neither the skills nor the tools to confront this emergency.

As the carnage unfolds, Tristan banters with his hostages, asking one girl whether she believes in “God” – a fleeting glimpse of philosophical debate between psychopathic nihilism – reminiscent of Nolan’ villain from The Dark Knight – and personal acceptance of our accountability to metaphysical transcendence. The girl responds “Free will – God allows the wicked to do their wickedness.” Tristan retorts, “Oh yeah, why’s that?” She replies “So they can be judged.”

In contrast to the authorities who gather and confer on the campus grounds, the resourceful Zoe intermittently escapes and evades while attempting to rescue as many occupants as possible. She confronts the antagonists one-by-one, at one point being hunted down by one of Tristan’s companions and cornered in an upstairs chemistry laboratory. Fortuitously, her father Todd has been watching the school windows through a rifle scope, saves Zoe from otherwise certain demise, for which he is arrested. After Zoe enables the trapped kids in the cafeteria to escape, she is handcuffed by one of the deputies, leaving her vulnerable and unable to intercept Tristan who clandestinely vacates to the nearby woods.

Upon her release from police custody, Zoe finds her father’s rifle and exacts retribution on Tristan – an action unspeakably appalling to social justice cry-bullies who prefer to intimidate vested authority into complying with their demands for canceling whomever they disdain. As Zoe returns to the traumatized school grounds, the credits roll accompanied by the Mondo Boys’ rendition of the 1965 anti-war song “Eve of Destruction” with the song’s line “you may leave for four days in space, but when you return, it’s the same old place…” seeming oddly appropriate in a haunting way.

A Film about Unplanned Heroism

Will RHF be remembered as a classic? No, but then again, that shouldn’t be expected. Despite its critics griping about the politics of its distributor, RHF is lively albeit painful to watch. While the film doesn’t examine the lives of the victims – most of them nameless – the film admonishes its viewers to avoid fatalism if and when the opportunity presents itself. Audiences love to appreciate bravery in the face of likely death – but more importantly in RHF, independent action without expectation of gratitude. In fact the treatment both Zoe and Todd receive from uniformed personnel exemplifies the quaint but depressing adage, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Is RHF realistic?  Well, no, not really- although the police in the film exemplify the kind of response we saw in Uvalde where police stood by during a lone gunman’s rampage. In real life, heroes usually lose against premeditated evil. So in fiction, the protagonist caught in the cross-fire hopes for a miracle to survive long enough to flee and/or return fire. After all, does anyone expect realism from Mission Impossible or James Bond?  Even so, RHF has credible scenes of violence within a believable scenario, and unlike politically correct tropes where female protagonists are invincible martial artists able to quickly dispatch muscle-bound henchmen twice their size, Zoe limps after sustaining injury and sometimes becomes trapped despite her best efforts. However, her character is more fortunate than is statistically probable, but her pluck and imagination can inspire those who prefer to eschew feckless passivity.

Complaints have been made that the characters are somewhat underdeveloped. Well, in a two-hour thespian presentation with deadly weapons, that’s not a practical aspiration, nor a proper expectation for an audience. Critics have also decried the lack of empathy for the fatal victims, such as in the psychodrama Elephant (2003).  The observation is valid – the complaint is not – RHF does not present a eulogy for lives prematurely lost – but rather a tragic tale centering on how someone with nerve and resolve can unexpectedly overcome enormous odds to endure and save others. That’s its lesson – unplanned heroism.  Its leftist critics simply oppose personal initiative.

The Kind of Heroism the Elites Can't Stand

PJ Media’s David Goldman observed that “American culture eschews timidity and celebrates the disruptive outsider... But there is also a dark side… the radical individualist can turn into a sociopath. We lack natural defenses against the predatory innovator.”  This is why we should (as RHF does) encourage idiosyncratic heroism as an antidote against the sudden marauder such as Tristan Voy who is presented as a calculating, ruthless and suave antagonist.

Most action dramas involving struggles between good and evil aren’t terribly believable at any rate – we suspend our disbelief in theater because we want to see dubious heroic tales. We know, or should know, that evil usually triumphs, at least in the short run, and sometimes in the long run too. People who seek realism can watch a documentary, like Dinosaur 13 (2014) featuring federal expropriation of T-rex fossils from meticulous paleontologists. Seriously though, realism is not really the left’s complaint about RHF. No, what they despise is the message of honoring those who take the chance to avoid impotence: that individual initiative can overcome collectivist group-think for the common good.

Can we all aspire to be heroes? No, any more than we can all yearn to be Olympian athletes or Nobel laureates. In cinema, such legends are shown for track runners as in Chariots of Fire (1981) or the intellectual discovery of game theory in A Beautiful Mind (2001). But if such attributes of courage, nobility and achievement seem comparatively rare, shouldn’t they nonetheless be honored and extolled? Indeed they should. Such stories resonate with the adage attributed to G. K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist… [but that] dragons can be killed.”  That’s the lesson in RHF.