Range Runners brings a number of elements into its story. The plot follows Mel (Celeste M. Cooper) a young woman on a range running expedition. During her travels she encounters two dangerous men. It sounds like it is going to be another revenge thriller – and in a lot of ways it is. The villains are as over the top as to be expected from this type of film. Range Runners also has its share of uncomfortable moments of violence. There is a lot here that is disturbingly familiar.
Where Range Runners differentiates itself is its willingness to push things further. Many movies in the revenge genre touch on female empowerment and self worth. More often than not (especially in films from the exploitation genre), this ended up being lip service. They tend to glamorize the worst parts and overcompensate later. It ends up being over the top all around.
There is a welcome break from the norm here. From the opening, Range Runners hints there is something more to Mel. Her long runs mean something to her. She may be running away from the perceived failures of the past. Or maybe Mel is running to a better future. It is a simple metaphor not often seen in the genre which makes the movie much more enjoyable.
Since the plot is fairly cut and paste, the success of this story hinges on the performance of Cooper. Fortunately, she does a great job in a surprisingly meaty role. Mel is a mix of insecure, confident, and determined and Cooper gets across each emotion. This is especially important since Range Runners has a tendency to lose its footing. The flashback storytelling adds insight to Mel, but it also hamstrings the pace at times. For all the good Cooper brings to Mel, the character is also written to make some boneheaded decisions.
Just when it seems like the movie is going to lose itself in generic villains or an unimaginative plot, Director Phillip s. Plowden steps in. The gorgeous scenery prevents Range Runners from ever being monotonous. Plowden makes the situation seem especially dire with some well staged shots. There are also some very tense scenes in the movie that show off Mel’s survival skills. In these moments, The film does a good job of overcoming its shortcomings.
Range Runners is a survival thriller that offers a little more. Celeste M. Cooper does an excellent as the well rounded main character. The story itself does not do much different. The villains are a bad combination of silly and evil while the plot has a tendency to force itself in the direction it wants to go. Investing so much into the main character is the welcome difference that will make this worth seeing.
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