Reviewed by Simone Cromers: As a follow up to his 2016 film short debut, Cellar Door, director, and executive producer, Philip S. Plowden brings a thrilling cat and mouse game in the woods to high tension levels with Range Runners. Mel (Celeste M. Cooper) is a tough as nails former Olympic long-distance runner who seeks solitude in running hundreds of miles on trails in Illinois. With scheduled drop-offs and pickups and the aid of her sister Chloe (Tiffany Renee Johnson) meeting her at designated spots along her journey, there is a sense that Mel is a woman in emotional pain running towards something with great perseverance.
Chloe tries to engage with Mel, and talk to her, but Mel’s mind is on something else so is she very distant and cold towards her own sister. With the recent passing of her father, Mel is still in the mental prison of his demanding training schedule from her youth. With a brutally demanding training schedule, Mel experiences flashbacks of him pushing her to the limit telling her failure is not an option. The speeches that he gives to her will be the foundation of strength that aids her through dark moments she could never anticipate.
The next leg of her run will be the longest, 400 miles in 8 days, with her trusty backpack that has everything in it, along with something of sentimental value in the bag. On the first day of her run along the trail, she passes only a few people making the run more peaceful offering a sense of solitude ensuring complete focus on her goal. She passes a pitiful looking guy along the trail with blisters on his feet but then decides to go back to offer aid. A mistake she would soon regret. Two guys out in the middle of the woods without the proper gear is a sign of trouble, why are they there? Mel offers her assistance and continues on her run, but now these two sinister characters played skillfully by Wayland (Sean Patrick Leonard) and skittish Jared (Michael B. Woods) decides she has exactly what they need.
They soon catch up to her at the campgrounds the following morning. Wayland makes it clear that they need her backpack for survival and he orders Jared to tie her up. The anger and betrayal Mel feels fuels something deep inside her, a will to persevere and fight to win and make things right. A lesson drilled into her psyche by a father who would not accept excuses kicks into gear and these criminal city guys do not know who they messed with.
They took something precious from her and she will get it back. Celeste M. Cooper gives an emotional performance of a woman who has to stalk the prey that preyed on her, and with the severe attacks and wounds she suffers, she comes alive in the woods, on the trails her father ran, the one person who taught her to survive, no matter what.
The filmmakers have shown the lessons learned with tough love from a parent who understood the ways of the world. Preparing his daughter for some of life’s worst evils. For so long women have been portrayed as less than equal with men and of course, many women do recognize that most men tend to be physically stronger. But what of determination, strong will, and a fighting spirit quality that many women possess. Range Runners embraces these qualities and gives us a satisfying role model in Mel.
Women and girls will be inspired by Range Runners a film that showcases how a woman can defend herself, and protect her property if it is all she has to live for. The intense and terrifying ending in this high-stakes crime-thriller will be very satisfying if you have the stamina to endure the suffering that Mel experiences. Twists and turns in this story written by Devon Colwell created an exciting world where a woman who is strong and in control of her destiny will find a way to deal with the men who invade her space and trust, and stole from her.
Directed by Phillip S. Plowden, written by Devon Colwell. Starring Celeste M Cooper, Sean Patrick Leonard, Michael B. Woods, and Tiffany Renee Johnson. Range Runners available now from Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment.