REVIEW: The Runaround Club [2016]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes | Release Date: 2016 (USA)
Studio: Fitch Fort Films
Director(s): Matt Rindini
Writer(s): Andrew Gleeson

“What exactly is your father capable of doing up there?”

Directed by Matt Rindini and written Andrew Gleeson, The Runaround Club shows a lot of promise. The former has a good visual sense and paces the dramatic thriller well; the latter weaves a web of complex characters crossing paths and interacting in ways conventional thinking wouldn’t automatically presume. Unfortunately, the story itself loses coherency in that complexity due to there not being enough time to truly know each player’s motivation let alone what’s happening. It’s one thing to throw two thieves into a volatile situation with two young girls and their abusive father, but it’s another to alter their emotional states without warning so the darkness of the bookends completely contradicts their attitude in between.

The production is ultra low budget so I won’t comment on the acting except to say that it does leave something to be desired. But that’s the point of a film like this: to experiment and practice and see exactly what goes into the process. They’ll all get better and so will the two men behind the camera. There’s definitely a sense of caution, though, with the violence starting and ending in awkward choreography so that grasping clothes and light pushing replaces the danger we to accept what’s coming. Hopefully all involved will push some boundaries on the next one—not necessarily risk injury, but gradually let the machinations of mind and body fade away for more authentic motion.

It may even be worthwhile to revisit this same script in a year or two later with more experience and a tighter grip on the story Gleeson has crafted. Real fear would go a long way towards forgiving any confusion because it’d force us to react as fast as the characters must to the escalating violence. A tale of burglars found within the property of an abusive man already wound up to teach his dating-age daughters a lesson must exist on a razor wire, not a track with rails that never diverts path. As soon as Lucas (Ariel Zukerman) hears Frank (John Depew), Linda (Asta Paredes), and Eliza (Caitlyn Parker) return home early, his partner Sam (Jack Lynch) missing, we know how they’ll eventually come together.

And that’s okay, especially when you add an interesting dynamic like Linda running into Lucas unannounced in her basement. The life this family leads is one where secrets are crucial to survival, so his lack of true menace would ease her mind from instantaneously screaming bloody murder. Knowing what her father is capable of does too because even if Lucas is a criminal with Frank having every right to kill him, any event that gets Dad’s blood pumping could easily find itself pointing her way next. Better to diffuse everything before the fireworks because an angry Frank doesn’t discern friend from foe when fists are flying. It’s an intriguing conceit ripe for psychological ebbs and flows.

Instead there’s a hastily met climax and a denouement that had me scratching my head. The quick burst of tragedy is understandable to keep us on our toes, but the reactions are too subdued for the situation. Everyone somehow has a clear head, blame doesn’t get passed around despite there being complete strangers involved, and the positioning of characters in the aftermath is way too convenient as a result. And the end … well, I’m not sure what to say. The wrong thief is angry since the whole ordeal was the incensed party’s doing. Add the lack of gloves and discretion all but assuring capture in less than 24-hours regardless, I wish I knew what their plan truly was.

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