Saturday, June 12, 2021

Tribeca 2021 Review: NO RUNNING (2021)

Written by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

In a time of so much social injustice happening all over the country, films that detail the daily experience of Black people are more and more important. And being able to intertwine this type of story within the backdrop of science fiction allows it to appeal to a wider audience in a more subtle way. It puts the Black experience front and center under the cloak of genre, which allows it to pull less punches and really touch on subjects that many filmmakers tend to sugarcoat, or just avoid altogether.

No Running tells the story of a young Black man who is blamed for the mysterious disappearance of a young girl and must go on the run to avoid being falsely imprisoned, while also searching for the truth about what exactly happened that night. But what he learns is that there’s much more going on in this small town than he ever could have expected.

Director Delmar Washington and writer Tucker Morgan craft a very personal story here, showing the unfortunate reality of most rural, small towns in this country and how they treat people of color, from a history of pinning crimes on Black men, to showing a video in school that said segregation was necessary at the time because “Black folks weren’t civilized enough yet.” It’s the types of things that wouldn’t surprise me if I discovered they were actually happening, some of which absolutely do.

Then there’s the sci-fi backdrop of this film, in which we never really get too many answers, if any. An event happens at the beginning of the film, it’s teased and discussed somewhat throughout, and then the ending showcases this, in a somewhat vague way, leaving you with more questions than you came in with. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a fact. Without giving too much away, the ending is left open to interpretation, both as to what exactly happened, and why. I can’t stop thinking about it, but again, I don’t want to spoil too much here.

The film is lead by Skylan Brooks, who you may know from Empire, Castle Rock, or even Southpaw. He gives a superb performance here, showcasing a full spectrum of emotions convincingly, which is key, seeing as he is in most of the scenes in this film. If his performance were subpar, the entire movie would just be a slog to get through. He is joined by Shane West and Bill Engvall, both of whom are playing parts unlike anything I’ve personally ever seen them do, and I was really impressed by the range of them both.

Shane West plays the Deputy of the town who is searching for Skylan’s character, Jaylen. He comes from a cop family and is trying to uphold the legacy passed down from his father, good or bad. Though, unlike his father, he does have a glimmer of some redemptive qualities within him. Then there’s Bill Engvall, who plays the town kook, the guy who saw things, yet no one believes him, and instead just thinks he’s crazy. I was worried this role would be played too over-the-top, but Engvall was able to keep it level, relatable, and believable.

Not everything in the film held up for me, though. There were definitely parts that were unclear about what exactly was happening, and I don’t mean the sci-fi elements. I’m not sure if it was an editing issue, a script issue, or a directing issue, but there were times when one scene would jump to the next with no context or explanation and I sat here wondering where exactly Jaylen was and why he was there.

Overall, No Running is a well done social sci-fi thriller that keeps you just a little off kilter wondering what is happening in this small town. If you get the chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.


The Merc’s Score:  8/10




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