Moving at a snail’s pace, burdened by a mood so heavy it squashes everything under its weight, Nick Frangione’s Buck Run, while competently pieced together, ends up as drab as the life it portrays. The film follows 15-year-old social outcast Shaw (Nolan Lyons) as he struggles in Smalltown, USA, in the aftermath of tragically losing his mother, Karen (Amy Hargreaves). After discovering her body, Shaw goes to school in a dreamlike haze; he then smashes a car window, which leads to the cops calling his estranged father William (James Le Gros).
William is a loser. He barely gets by, alone in a filthy house with his dog Patton and an assortment of guns on his wall. His sole friend is John (Kevin J. O’Connor), whom he shamelessly rips off. Shaw recoils in horror at the sight of his father’s dilapidated existence. “I’m not sleeping on this shitty cot, in this shitty house,” he exclaims before William promptly puts him in his place. He confiscates Shaw’s cell phone, makes him clean up the backyard, takes him along to the scrapyard. When Shaw asks his dad about arranging mom’s funeral, the man’s response is, “I can’t put my life on hold just because a few things change.”
Not much happens for a while – okay, there’s Shaw being bullied by some hillbilly dimwits – until William concludes that he really can’t stand his son. The boy seeks temporary refuge in a woodsy shack with the devoutly religious Angus (Angus Macfadyen), where he enviously witnesses the titular buck running free amongst the desolate trees. Just when it feels like the son and father may find some sort of common ground, Frangione wraps things up with a heart-wrenching sequence (whose poignancy isn’t enough to justify the monotony of the preceding 70 minutes). There’s little to no hope for poor Shaw.
“After discovering her body, Shaw goes to…his estranged father William.”
“You let that faggot kid take the best of you?” an exemplary father asks his bully child. The filmmaker nails the milieu of uber-conservative, small-town American existence, where hunting is a way of life, everything is dingy and run down, country music blares in every bar, hats proudly display the American flag, and rampant prejudice and bigotry reign supreme. Within that swampy environment, Shaw is stuck at an age when you’re too old to evoke sympathy but not old enough to be self-sufficient.
The problem is Frangione subjects his viewer to all this dinginess without a spark of humor or momentum to keep things engrossing. Buck Run drags on and on, finding time for things like a ten-second shot of a lamp or extended sequences of characters driving. The underappreciated Le Gros gives it his all but fails to break through his character’s inherent lack of dimension. The young Lyons shines in a few moments but similarly isn’t given enough room to breathe. The talented Hargreaves is barely even there. And don’t hire Braveheart‘s Angus Macfadyen and have him deliver four lines of dialogue in what amounts to maybe a minute of screen time.
Here’s a notion: a single hunting trip between Shaw and William would have arguably made for a more captivating experience, one bolstered by real filmmaking verve, delving deep into exploring the father-son bond, allowing the actors to truly flex their acting chops. As it stands, Buck Run resembles an atmospheric little short, stretched out to feature-length. As such, it becomes more of a drag than a run.
"…resembles an atmospheric little short, stretched out to feature-length."