Movie Review: ‘The Runners’

Teenage rebellion of a brother’s attempt at parenting turns into human trafficking in this uneven action thriller. With fair acting, a meaningful premise focused on a horrible problem, and stunning cinematography, this is a decent movie for casual viewers. More nitpicky viewers might balk at the unbelievable plot advancements, inept characters, and an overly exaggerated ending.

The film opens on a solemn note with a car accident that takes the lives of Ryan and Zoe’s parents, along with a sermon from the local pastor talking about why bad things happen to good people. While it is not as gut-wrenching as other movies (the first ten minutes of Up, for example), it is beautifully shot and sets the mood for the first half of the film.

Cut to ten years later, Ryan (Micah Lyons, who also served as writer, director, and producer) has become a surrogate father to Zoe (relative newcomer Netty Leach). Zoe is 17 and ready to make her own mistakes regardless of Ryan’s “authority”. Naturally, she disobeys her brother to go to a party with her boyfriend where her night quickly goes from great to bad to worse. Zoe gets abducted from the party and, since the local Sheriff will not help (until religious intervention calls) due to the rebellious teenager not being missing for a long enough period of time, it is up to Ryan and his best friend to track her down, with the help of her boyfriend and the pastor (played by an underutilized Tom Sizemore; Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Penn & Teller Get Killed, and numerous other credits).

If you are the type of person that likes edge of your seat action and, while watching the movie, sees a kidnap victim stumble upon her own phone that falls out of window blinds and you think “oh good, a phone”, this movie might be for you. It has action, suspense, drama, beautiful cinematography, a “Hollywood ending”, and it tackles the unfortunately all too real subject of human sex trafficking. There are religious overtones that may come off as preachy, but it fits well with the story.

However, if you like to analyze movies (perhaps overly analyze), you may start to wonder why the abductors hid the phone in the window blinds in the room where the victims were going to be kept, or why the phone could not get service to call 911 but could get service to text her brother. There are a few plot points like this that start to fall apart if examined too closely (like the entire scene with the SWAT team). I would still recommend it for its attempt at shinning a light on the underground industry.

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