by Randy Surles and Laura Graves
★★★★☆ 4 out of 5 Stars
With Randy being a Story Grid Certified Editor, and me his protege, we can’t help but apply The Story Grid to every book we read and movie or TV show we watch, and The Daily Wire’s Run Hide Fight was no exception. Overall, it was a great movie, packed with action, tense scenes, and engaging characters. The protagonist, Zoe Hull, was compelling, well developed and interesting to watch as she fought back against the quartet of school shooters. For their part, the antagonists embodied perfectly my thoughts on school shooters. The chubby social outcast, mentally ill and easily manipulated sidekick, and lovestruck girlfriend made a believable band of accomplices for the main villain, Tristan Voy. As for Tristan, he was one of the most interesting and compelling villains I have seen in a long time. Too often in action movies, audiences watch the hero take on a large but seemingly incompetent group of bad guys. Tristan, on the other hand, had a well thought out plan that he carefully and competently executed from start to finish. At the end of the movie, audiences are really left feeling like if it weren’t for Zoe’s keen observation, instincts, and skills that Tristan would have killed the entire student body and then walked away a free man.
The reason for the missing star comes in with some lacking obligatory scenes and conventions. While the movie was very tense and exciting, it could have been made better by the inclusion of a few key scenes, and as such, we are only able to award it 4 out of 5 stars.
What is The Story Grid?
The Story Grid is a method of analysing and editing stories. It focuses on many different parts, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus primarily on Obligatory Scenes and Conventions. Obligatory Scenes and Conventions are the necessary elements of each Genre that audiences expect to see. Leaving out even one will disappoint your readers (or in this case viewers) and leave you with a story that does not work as well as it should. Each Genre, as identified by The Story Grid, has its own set of these Obligatory Scenes and Conventions. Let’s take a look at them for the Action Genre, how they were used (or omitted) in Run Hide Fight, and our ideas for how they could have been better implemented in order to reach that 5 Star rating.
Tristan and his gang attack the school by driving a van into the cafeteria and killing some students.
This was a great inciting event that effectively ratcheted up the tension quickly and set the tone for the movie.
After realizing what is happening, Zoe tries to escape
This scene was believable and realistic. Of course Zoe would try to escape, of course she would want to save her own life. The viewers cannot even fault her for this decision, as we would surely do the same thing in her position.
Zoe’s ordinary world is a normal High School where ‘nothing that happens matters’. Once this turns into a dangerous world, she becomes very assertive and tells students on smoke breaks not to go back in unless they want to die. Her attitude and demeanor is harsh, impatient, and frustrated.
This too is believable and compelling. Her classmates are a little put off by her attitude, but the viewer cannot really expect her to use a calm and reasonable tone in this situation.
Tristan wants fame and notoriety, Kip wants revenge on classmates who teased him, and Chris and Anna just want to please the boy they love.
All of these MacGuffins are interesting and effective. It is also really compelling that Kip, who has the least valid reason for participating, is talked into switching sides by Zoe. I also found it interesting and refreshing that the main Villain, Tristan, did not have any grievances, but rather was seeking fame, attention, and notoriety for his genius and the execution of his carefully crafted plan. This piece was made even more interesting and compelling by the fact that, unlike most school shooters, Tristan was not suicidal, and actually had a carefully crafted exit strategy.
Zoe recruits Kip to help her, but Kip dies trying to stop Tristan.
This was a great sequence. When Zoe is able to talk Kip into seeing the evil of his actions and changing sides, the audience feels like she might finally have the advantage against Tristan, only to hit another low when Tristan kills Kip.
The lack of this scene is part of the reason we subtracted a star. There isn’t much of an all is lost moment here. Zoe never gets to a point when she feels she won’t be able to make a difference and stop Tristan and save more students. She never gets to the point of almost giving up. When she realized Lewis had been shot, there was definitely an opportunity for this. Zoe could have debated whether to give up her goal of stopping Tristan in order to get Lewis out of the building and to the EMTs, but this thought does not seem to cross her mind. Instead, she just gets him somewhere safe and gets back to business.
The closest we come to this is the scene where Chris is about to kill Zoe, and she is saved at the last minute by her father shooting him with his sniper rifle. The problem is that Chris is not the Villain, he is only a lackey. There is also a point when Zoe and Tristan meet in the last quarter of the movie, but Tristan doesn’t have a chance to threaten her. Chris is actually more threatening, with Tristan protecting her (at least temporarily), and then Kip comes in and starts an exchange of fire. Ultimately, there is no showdown between just Zoe and Tristan (think Die Hard ending).
This also isn’t realized well, her reward is survival and she saves her friend too, but without the showdown with Tristan, this is somewhat watered down.
Victim: everyone at the school
Villain: Tristan (and his gang)
Zoe’s goal throughout the movie is to stop Tristan and save as many of the people in the school as possible.
Tristan has a team of four, bombs, and guns; Zoe is alone and initially unarmed.
This is not really present in the movie, no one speaks about any advantages or specific ruthlessness that Tristan had before this attack.
This is another place where the movie could have been stronger. Information about how dangerous Tristan is and how thought out his plan was is sprinkled throughout the movie, but never compiled in this way. When the Sheriff puts all of the pieces together, he just makes the comment that this kid is always one step ahead. Instead, he could have listed off everything Tristan and his crew did, like starting the fires to clog the roads and tie up emergency services, calling in the fake bomb threat 30 minutes away so that SWAT was unavailable, and the ruthlessness of slitting his own mother’s throat while she sat in her chair watching television, and how all of that shows that they were not just dealing with some bullied kid, but an intelligent, sophisticated criminal.
The other big change that we wish they would have made was to the ending scene. As is Zoe’s Crisis Question was “Should I tell the police or go after Tristan myself?” We think it would have been much more interesting and tense if it was, “Does Zoe believe that Tristan is dead or not?” As she talked to the Sheriff and he explained that they found Tristan’s body burnt to a crisp, Zoe can question him, feeling unsure that Tristan is really dead and institing that SWAT continue to look for him to be sure. When the Sheriff then dismisses her, she could decide to go hunt Tristan down. We think this would have been a more satisfying ending. We did really enjoy the ending where she makes Tristan think that she is going to crush his head, and she repeats the speech that her dad gave her.
As a former Special Forces Green Beret, Randy also had some thoughts to include about some of the tactical details of the movie:
As a book editor with no sort of military experience, I just enjoyed all the shooting and blowing stuff up.
Despite the changes we would make to strengthen the plot, this entertaining movie was definitely worth the watch.
With 25+ years of military experience, let me help you make your action characters and scenes more authentic. Contact me and tell me about your writing project.
© 2020 Randall R. Surles