Out now on DVD and On Demand, Range Runners is a brutal new survival thriller from director Phillip S. Plowden in his feature film debut.
Range Runners stars Celeste M. Cooper as Mel, a woman who pushes herself on grueling, multi-day hikes/runs through various parks around the country. On her latest run, she encounters two men and initially offers them some assistance with a few injuries they have but they become more sinister and suspicious, especially as they follow and surprise her one morning at her campsite. The men show their true colors and attack Mel, taking her backpack of supplies and leaving her tied to an old hiking shelter. Mel has to figure out a way to escape her restraints and then determine if she wants to try and get help or push on and take back what is hers. The plot is pretty straight forward with a few twists here and there. There’s just enough to keep you interested but the real focus is on the physical toll the ordeal takes on Mel and how she keeps pushing past it to press on. There are flashbacks to the tough love her father gave her when she was a young girl training to be a runner that provides the context of her mindset and they happen at appropriate and well-paced times to break up the forest-based action and you gradually learn what is actually pushing her to constantly do these grueling runs. You also learn just enough about the two men, Waylon and Jared (Sean Patrick Leonard and Michael B. Woods) to understand why they are doing what they’re doing and why they are out in the middle of the woods without the need for a lot of unnecessary exposition or explanation.
Celeste M. Cooper delivers an incredible physical performance as Mel and, even before the plot kicks in, it’s exhausting just watching her run through the woods. When things get more serious, there are multiple sequences that stay with her as she tries to get out of whatever situation she is currently in and you feel every agonizing moment, whether it’s struggling against restraints or dealing with a busted up knee. She also does a fantastic job selling Mel’s determination and steadfastness and why she would keep coming back and try to get her backpack back and get justice. Sean Patrick Leonard is a fantastically over the top villain, barely hiding his sadistic side with fake pleasantries and Michael B. Woods is great as well as the more nervous and sympathetic of the duo. Because of the setting and the fact that there aren’t huge action set pieces, the movie really hinges on the performances and everyone, especially Cooper, really carry the movie.
Range Runners is an efficient and brutal thriller with a great central performance and some harrowing survival sequences. If you’re looking for huge set pieces, shootouts, or elaborate fight scenes, you’ll need to look elsewhere but if you’re looking for something that’s more tense and intimate, Range Runners is definitely worth checking out.