Combustible Celluloid Review - The Runner (2022), Jason Chase Tyrrell, Michelle Danner, Edouard Philipponnat, Elizabeth Röhm, Eric Balfour, Jessica Amlee, Cameron Douglas, Nadji Jeter, Kerri Medders
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With: Edouard Philipponnat, Elizabeth Röhm, Eric Balfour, Jessica Amlee, Cameron Douglas, Nadji Jeter, Kerri Medders
Written by: Jason Chase Tyrrell
Directed by: Michelle Danner
MPAA Rating: R for strong teen drug and alcohol use, pervasive language and some violence
Running Time: 104
Date: 08/19/2022

The Runner (2022)

1 Star (out of 4)

Bad Deal

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Surface-level, slick, and vacant, this drug-centric teen drama deals in spoiled, unlikable characters, and as a result can't generate any suspense or emotions with its by-the-numbers drug-bust story.

Aiden (Edouard Philipponnat) is a teen drug user and drug dealer. Not knowing what else to do, his mother (Elisabeth Röhm) has him arrested. To avoid jail, he reluctantly cuts a deal with Detective Wall (Cameron Douglas) to help the police bring down a source, known as Local Legend (Eric Balfour). The plan is to throw a party at Aiden's house while his mom is out of town, while Aiden's friend and business partner Blake (Nadji Jeter) coaxes L.L. into attending.

Aiden's conscience is suffering, however, due to a drug-related accident involving his old girlfriend Layla (Kerri Medders), and he winds up getting very drunk and very high at the party. Can he pull off the sting and make it out alive?

None of the characters in The Runner really work, but the main character is the most troubling. Although actor Edouard Philipponnat throws himself into the role, Aiden is problematic on the page. He spends much of the movie looking anguished and weeping. His dark past involved him giving his old girlfriend synthetic drugs, causing a seizure and doing irreparable harm. That, plus his lying to his friends and arguing with his mom, in addition to his rampant drinking and drug use, as well as his wealth and privilege, all make him deeply unsympathetic.

Even more perplexing is his relationship with Detective Wall. Half the time, the detective is slapping him and calling him a "punk," and the other half, he's cradling the sobbing boy in his arms and calling him "son." Using these and other empty characters to build up to the climactic party leaves everything feeling flat, even inorganic.

There's a stop-and-start quality as all other characters are forced to wait for Aiden before they can jump in, and certain plot elements are left hanging. But the irritating, seemingly ambiguous ending is the worst part, leaving us even more aggravated than ever. Certainly there can be good, truthful stories about troubled upper-class white teens, but The Runner is as misguided as they come.

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