Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Female director Michelle Danner delivers a dark and harrowing new thriller, The Runner. After Aiden (Edouard Phillipponnat) gets busted trying to purchase drugs, the cops force him to go undercover to take down cocky drug lord Local Legend (Eric Balfour). His mission isn’t really much of a choice, considering they give him an ultimatum of going behind bars or risking his life by wearing a wire. Aiden’s messy personal life only serves to embolden his increasingly erratic behavior.

The film’s ensemble is well-cast, with supporting stand-out turns from Elisabeth Rohm as Aiden’s worrisome mother and Cameron Douglas as intense Detective Wall. There is, however, one performance that stands triumphantly above the rest. Edouard Phillipponnat is phenomenal in the lead role and reminded me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio, particularly in his Basketball Diaries days. Aiden’s downward spiral into drugs, abandoning his relationships, and acting out—Edouard plays all of these extremes with nuanced skill. 

I liked the way the movie dealt with addiction; the appeal of drugs during your worst moments, the toll it takes on youth and the cyclical nature of criminality through its lens. As a whole, The Runner’s forced-to-infiltrate plot reminded me of 2021’s Body Brokers. The script from Jason Chase Tyrrell forms Aiden into a frustrating but relatable centerpiece, and has a significantly more uplifting outlook than expected. Winner of multiple film festival awards, The Runner is a refreshing and honest tale, with Edouard Phillipponnat’s incredible turn as Aiden taking center stage.

The Runner screened at various film festivals, including Worldfest Houston, New York International Film Festival, and Cinequest San Jose.

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