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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

RIDGE RUNNERS -- Movie Review by Porfle

Low-budget and low-key, RIDGE RUNNERS (Indican Pictures, 2018) is a methodical police procedural that eschews big action moments and forced drama for a more realistic approach which highlights the personal lives of a female police detective and her male partner as they investigate the disappearance of a young girl.

Rachel Willow (Jennica Schwartzman) is single, lives with her widowed mother, and doesn't want to be a cop anymore.  She's having an affair with her partner Rob Shepherd (Austin Haley) which is a dead end since, in addition to being a decent guy, he happens to be married.

Still, they work well together, which comes in handy when they're charged with finding out what happened to 12-year-old Halley Dawn (Tatum Chandler), who has disappeared from the home where she lives with her ne'er-do-well mom Maddie (Charlee Graham). 

What they don't know, we do--the movie opens with a frightened Halley being forced to turn tricks at a truck stop, obviously having been kidnapped into the sex trade.  So we know what's at stake, how much danger the little girl is in, and how imperative it is that Rachel and Rob solve this case as quickly as possible.

Which, of course, happens at about the same speed as pouring molasses.  Their investigation is slow, painstaking, and by the book, as they question the usual suspects including Maddie, her neighbors, Halley's teacher Mr. Flynn (Jennica Schwartzman's husband Ryan), and, most importantly, the shady characters Maddie works for as an accountant at a race track owned by a lowlife named Clayton (Jason Thompson).

The secret of Halley's captor (or captors) is revealed surprisingly early, turning the story from a mystery into a race against time.  But we still get some shocking surprises here and there as we discover some of the other people involved in the crime and also witness the sad (but realistic) demise of a major character through the eyes of various world-weary loved ones. 

While some may find RIDGE RUNNERS too slow and unsensational for their tastes, I was gradually drawn into and captivated by this slice-of-life look at frustrating and often fruitless detective work as well as interpersonal concerns which are equally well-drawn and share the same fruitless frustration.

Jonesboro, Arkansas natives Hunter West and Austin Lott make their feature debuts here as director and writer, respectively, setting the film in their relatively quiet hometown which throws the sordid events into sharper relief.  

The performances are restrained and controlled, yet on the mark.  Jennica Schwartzman is especially good as Rachel, whose uncertainty about her job tends to fade when circumstances turn her into a smart, dogged, and finally almost vengeful agent of justice. 

RIDGE RUNNERS lets us settle into a story that's involving without having to be stoked up with empty action and melodrama.  When all the plot threads start winding together, it's exciting enough just to see what finally happens and how it affects the people inexorably caught up in it all.

Tech Specs
Runtime: 80 mins
Format: 2:35
Sound: Dolby SR
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Thriller



HeathCliff Rothman said...

Really well written review. Your review convinced me you to wathe film. I really liked it That being said, in the context of what you wrote, I felt the ending a bit to pumped relative you the rest of the film, and felt the shift in tone to a more vigilante feel undermined a bit the understatedness which I appreciated But as I said, direction and acting were exceptional

Porfle Popnecker said...

Glad you liked the review! Thanks for the comment.

Ben Kennedy said...

This was a generally slow moving movie until near the end when everything just magically fell into place for the detective with everyone just owning up to what they did. Seems rather far fetched to me. Acting and cinematography were decidedly poor.