Movie Review: ‘Run With The Hunted’ And Interviews With Director John Swab And Actor Michael Pitt

Review by James Lindorf

Oscar was a good son, always doing his chores as his mom told him, and he listened intently to his father’s lessons about how to be a man. His best friend Loux lived next door with her younger brother Amos and their alcoholic father. Life was hard on Loux and Amos. There was no sign of their mother, and they lived mostly on the leftovers Oscar dropped off. To their father, Amos was a freak for being autistic. Now, he has started to appreciate the young Loux in an unfatherly way. To protect his friend, Oscar does the only thing he can think of. Forced to run away from his rural hometown, leaving behind his family, friends, and murder charges, Oscar makes a new life for himself in the city. Fifteen years later, he has moved on his past and become the leader of a band of lost children while Loux takes it upon herself to find the boy who saved her life. “Run with the Hunted” will be available on VOD June 26th.

There is no doubt that Writer/Director John Swab is a loyal Okie. “Run with the Hunted” was set and filmed in Tulsa, used a fair amount of local talent and crew, and was inspired in part by two of the state’s most prominent bits of literature, “Rumble Fish” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” While those works make their presence known, “Run with the Hunted” is essentially a modern retelling of “Oliver Twist.” Oscar comes to town, owning nothing. Knowing no one, luckily, he quickly caught the eye of a young, charismatic pickpocket named Peaches. Peaches is this film’s Dodger and takes Oscar under her wing, showing him the ropes of making a living on the streets in their makeshift family headed by Sway (Mark Boone Jr.) and Birdie (Ron Perlman).

Swab is a self-proclaimed fan of gritty 70s style cinema, and that comes through in “Run with the Hunted.” A few minor tweaks and it could have been set at any time in the last 50 years. His world is rough and raw, with no quarter given to its characters or its viewers. Life wasn’t easy for them, and understanding all their choices and actions won’t be easy for us. Why did Oscar think it was a good idea to get a neck tattoo? Why did Peaches have such intense abandonment issues? Why was Birdie so ruthless? The biggest question is why the people at the top are running this Lord of the Fly’s camp in Tulsa. There doesn’t appear to be enough money to provide for ten kids, bribe the cops, and make the big guy wealthy. Maybe affluence isn’t the goal but surviving comfortably while someone else takes all the risks. That may be a smart plan, but it isn’t a cinematic one. Lazy and risk-averse is not the M.O. you would expect from the intimidating presence of Ron Perlman.

Run with the Hunted as a strong presence and a great cast, making it an easy watch. The problem lies in the pacing. The movie is just too short to provide all the information and all the answers the audience craves. It could have been epic as a 6 to 10 episode miniseries, something with the feel of The Shield.” In its current form, Run with the Hunted stumbles in its plot holes narrowly missing greatness.

John Swab Director

(RCC): When did you first have the idea for what would become one week? How did how did you know it was a story that you wanted to bring to life?

I had the idea about two years before we shot it and it is the second of four films that I will write and direct
For me once you write for me, I just start obsessing about an idea. It gets to the point where I have to make it or it’s going to drive me crazy.

(RCC): Watching the film, people could have some political views and discussions after watching. I was curious if your opinions on things like homelessness, policing or child welfare or influence the story you wanted to tell?

Not initially. I enjoy 70s, and cult films, the kind that deal with characters who are in conflict. On the surface they are bad people, but underneath they are good people dealing with bad situations more than anything. If there is any political things people could draw from that it was a happy accident

(RCC): Besides the political there are some literary and maybe even some film influences that I could see, Peter Pan, Oliver Twist were pretty big ones. There’s also The Grapes of Wrath. And I’m curious how those works influence you as a writer.

In addition, to those there is also a passage that Michael reads from Rumble Fish. I am from Oklahoma, and Tulsa where we shot, is where Rumble Fish and The Outsiders were also shot. Well, there’s not a lot of things that happened here, at least in terms of pop culture, and as a kid I kind of clung tightly to the ones that did. There’s something kind of magical about Peter Pan, and I always wondered about the dark, more contemporary, side of that story. I would have to say though that Rumble Fish and The Outsiders were the biggest influences.

(RCC): There’s a pretty big jump in time and I’m curious what you thought was going on in their lives during that time to produce the adults we see in the second half of the film?

What was happening in their lives? Probably nothing good. The script changed a lot from when I started writing it and we actually ended up shooting. Michael’s one of my favorite living actors and he is just incredible. Once he came within earshot of the project it really solidified the time jump and we had to decide on the best way to work that. It led to what I think is the best part of the film in what Michael was doing. Loux was probably doing the best of the group and making good use of the sacrifice Oscar made for her. While he and Peaches just grew up under the influence of Sway and Birdie and everything that coms with that.

(RCC): When you have characters played by two different people do you have discussions about mannerisms or ways of speaking? Something that would make them feel more connected, more like a singular character?

We tried to shoot all of the younger components of the film first and provided Michael with all the footage of the younger Oscar. Dree was able to come and watch in person the same for Sam who played the older Loux. Everybody kind of got to study the younger version and see what they did. A lot of them were not actors, with the exception of young peaches (Kylie Rogers) so it was kind of an organic and a really cool process for Michael and Sam to see these kids who were just kind of instinctively playing these characters and kind of try and glean what they could from the performances.

(RCC): As well as writing, directing, you’re also one of the casting directors. How did you manage to put together such a great cast that include Mark Boone Junior, Ron Perlman, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., and one of your favorite actors Michael Pitt?

I have to give most of the credit to my recent producing partner Jeremy Rosen. Who is really a big part of casting. I had relationships with Boone, and Sam has been in every film I have done to date. I knew them and Gore who played the older Amos. Jeremy was the one who ran the gamut of trying to get a hold of Michael and that long courting process.

(RCC): When it comes to casting two people to play the same character what emphasis is placed on them looking alike?

I went in kind of like, hey, I hope we can find a kid that looks like it could grow to be Michael or grow to be Peaches, but I knew we didn’t have the budget to cast from around the country and we would have to do the best we could. It was it was tough to find Mitchell, who played the younger version of Oscar. We watched around 150 tapes to find Mitchell who was the most natural on camera. Unfortunately, he had different colored eyes and we had to give Michael contacts which was a pain but, it was worth it.

(RCC): You mentioned earlier, this is the second of four films that you want to write, direct, and release. What is the next one you’re working on?

We shot Body Brokers last August and just finished the post. Due to the whole pandemic we are trying to figure out the release but it will be out soon. We are getting ready to head into production on the next film which I can’t say more about at this time.

Michael Pitt Actor

Red Carpet Crash (RCC): What first attracted you to the role of Oscar and the film Run with the hunted?

I was attracted to the story. I thought it was a good story because I felt like it could be current and also timeless. I had a great meeting with John Swab and I guess I’ve been doing it long enough I could tell instinctually that we could work well together. Then I met Dree Hemingway and I felt like she was going to be great and so I just signed on to the project.

(RCC): Watching the movie, you can see inspirations like Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, and The Grapes of Wrath. Did you have any inspirations that you tried to model Oscar after?

I started reading a lot of S. E. Hinton books, because, we were in Oklahoma and I grew up on the east coast. There are some elements to playing this street kid turning into a grown man that would be different in New York, than it would be in Oklahoma. I mean a lot a bit different. So, I read a lot of S. E. Hinton to get a feel for Oklahoma.

(RCC): I’m curious about you playing the older version of Oscar, was there any kind of discussion about mannerisms or things you want to carry on from the younger person to the older to try and make that changeover feel more natural?

It happened very quickly just because there were some scheduling issues. I didn’t unfortunately have the time that I would have liked. I would have liked to go down there at least a month before, get to meet the kid playing young Oscar and pick up some of his mannerisms. I got to spend a little time with Mitchell (Paulsen) but I would have liked more.

(RCC): You mentioned scheduling conflicts and lower budget films are known for at times, having a grueling shooting schedule. How long were you on set in Oklahoma?

I don’t know if that’s only for lower budgets, I mean the big budget movies is pretty grueling as well. They’re different though they are definitely different. I do think it is easier for me to work when I don’t have a lot of downtime. I prefer staying in character, but I am antsy when I’m not working not the other way around. When I’m making a film, I’m a workaholic.

(RCC): You mentioned you like to really get into the character, how does that affect you when you’re playing an intense character like Oscar or your character from “Funny Games” where it’s very far removed from who you are in your everyday life?

I think that is where craft comes in. That’s what I learned from my mentors. That’s what makes it possible, if you don’t have that separation, then you’re just, I don’t know, torturing yourself. That would not be healthy. I am much better with it now than when I was younger. I could see it going home with Dree a little bit because she was very committed. I think she’s great in the film but I could see her sometimes bringing it home and I tried to say, you know, it’s part of it, and you need to just let it go. It’s pretend, this whole thing is pretend, and so it’s great to be there in it, but then it’s also great to leave it.

(RCC): Who were some of your mentorS that helped you learn that important lesson?

Gus Van Sant, Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese. I met, Gus early on in my career if you could even call it a career when I met him, and I wouldn’t have the career that I have today if he hadn’t mentored me in a lot of ways throughout the years.

(RCC): You said you’re a workaholic, and I’d think that probably means you like to keep working. Once you’re done filming a certain movie or show do you follow it after afterwards, or is it once you’re done, you’re done and on to the next thing?

I think it’s usually good if you if you can go to an island somewhere if you can afford that. If not, I don’t know, sit on your roof or fire escape and make yourself a pina colada and pretend you’re like on an island, maybe cut your hair. Leave the character behind. I think it’s a very interesting thing that we do as actors, it can be very intense and the healthiest thing is to have really lovely, patient, and understanding friends and loved ones around you.

(RCC): Looking back through your Filmography and TV shows you’ve worked on; you’ve worked with some really great actors who are known for being funny or a good time on set. I’m curious who was the most fun to work with, was it, Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire Ryan Reynolds in Criminal or, Ron Perlman in this Run with the Hunted?

Yeah, I mean, Ryan Reynolds was a joy to work with. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hang out with him a lot. Steve Buscemi and I’ve had a long friendship and working relationship. We made a film very early on in my career called Delirious with Tom DiCillo. It was a pleasure to work with Steve then and it was again on Boardwalk Empire. I think having that time with him on an early earlier movie helped, and he’s also just a great guy. I mean he’s just he’s a great guy, he’s a New Yorker. Ron was wonderful to work with, but we only worked with each other for a couple of days. There was a movie with Paul Giamatti, it was very hard for me to keep straight face because he was just so funny. It’s kind of a nightmare for an actor, you can’t stop laughing and everyone’s waiting.

(RCC): Is there anything you’re currently working on, or that you were working on before the virus shut everything down?

Yes, I was working on a Stephen King project, but it was, it was postponed. I don’t know what they’re going to do, I’m not sure if they’ve made decisions yet but I’m hopeful. To tell you the truth I don’t think anyone really knows how things are going to adjust yet. I also wrote and directed a film called Nocturnal. I shot that in Italy and it should hopefully be coming out pretty soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.