Review: ‘You Can’t Run Forever,’ starring J.K. Simmons, Fernanda Urrejola, Isabelle Anaya and Allen Leech

May 28, 2024

by Carla Hay

J.K. Simmons in “You Can’t Run Forever” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“You Can’t Run Forever”

Directed by Michelle Schumacher

Culture Representation: Taking place in Montana, the dramatic film “You Can’t Run Forever” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latin people and African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A serial killer goes on a rampage, and a teenage girl and her family members are among the killer’s targets in a remote wooded area. 

Culture Audience: “You Can’t Run Forever” will appeal primarily to people are fans of star J.K. Simmons and mindless movies with too many plot holes.

Isabelle Anaya in “You Can’t Run Forever” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“You Can’t Run Forever” is a nepotism project gone wrong. J.K. Simmons has the starring role as a serial killer in this ineptly made crime drama, directed by his wife and co-starring their daughter, with music composed by their son. It’s a family fiasco. And it’s proof that even an Oscar-winning actor such as Simmons can embarrass himself for nepotism’s sake.

Directed by Michelle Schumacher (who co-wrote the horrendous screenplay with Carolyn Carpenter), “You Can’t Run Forever” is yet another cliché-polluted “thriller” with an over-used concept of a “killer on the loose in a remote area.” Many of these types of movies aren’t very imaginative, but this trashy and dumb movie has cringeworthy levels of atrocious filmmaking in front of and behind the camera. The plot of “You Can’t Run Forever” has more holes than the bullet holes from the killer’s gun during his murder spree.

“You Can’t Run Forever” (which takes place in Montana, where the movie was filmed on location) begins by showing the serial killer (who doesn’t wear any disguises) shoot and kill three people he doesn’t know (two men and a woman) outside of a gas station, where he has arrived on a motorcycle. One of his victims asks the killer before being murdered: “Why are you doing this?” The killer replies with a cold smirk: “Does it matter?”

The killer sees a woman named Sally (played by Alet Taylor) crouching in fear next to her car at a gas pump. She’s already witnessed this shooting spree, and she thinks she’s the next to be murdered. She looks right at the killer, who’s less than three feet away. He raises his gun and points it at her, as if he’s going to shoot her. But for reasons that are never explained in the movie, he gets on his motorcycle and leaves.

Viewers of “You Can’t Run Forever” should be prepared to see many aggravating instances where this mindless movie sets up scenarios and never bothers to answer a lot of big questions that arise from these scenarios. The killer’s name (Wade Bennett) isn’t revealed until much later in the movie. Don’t expect the movie to give a reason for why Wade has gone on this rampage.

One of the few clues is when one of his targets finds a video of Wade on the Internet. The video shows that Wade taught a “business survival” class at Montana University. In the video of a class session, Wade is seen losing his temper and ending the class session early by yelling at the students to leave. A flashback is also shown that reveals Wade has killed people before the main story takes place.

After murdering people at the gas station, Wade happens to be at the same rest stop as two people who will be his next victims: Eddie Cooper (played by Allen Leech) and Eddie’s mopey stepdaughter Miranda (played by Isabelle Anaya), who’s about 17 or 18 years old. Eddie and Miranda are driving to a place of business to pick up a bassinet crib that was custom-made for the family.

An early scene in the movie gives some background information on this family. Eddie is married to Miranda’s mother Jenny (played by Fernanda Urrejola), who divorced Miranda’s father several years ago, long before Jenny met Eddie. Jenny is close to giving birth to a boy (Eddie is the father), so you know that Jenny being pregnant will be part of the drama. Eddie and Jenny have named their unborn child Anthony.

Eddie has a teenage daughter named Emily (played by Olivia Simmons, daughter of J.K. Simmons and Schumacher) from a previous marriage or previous relationship. The mother of Emily is never mentioned in the story. Emily is a college student who doesn’t live with Eddie, Jenny and Miranda, but Emily lives close enough that she sees them a lot and is welcome in their home.

Emily and Jenny have a respectful and friendly stepmother/stepdaughter relationship. It’s taken much longer for Miranda to accept Eddie as part of the family. Eddie alludes to this discomfort when he has conversations with Miranda and Jenny.

Miranda has depression and anxiety, although the movie doesn’t make it clear how long she’s had these issues. It’s only mentioned that Miranda’s father Miguel (played by Randy Gonzalez) died almost a year ago. His death has made Miranda’s anxiety even worse. How he died is revealed later in the movie in one of the worst-conceived parts of the story.

“You Can’t Run Forever” is filled with a lot of nonsensical scenes that go nowhere. Early in the movie, Jenny is seen looking out a window at home and getting worried because Miranda is brooding in a tree in the house’s front yard and looking down. The implication is that Miranda could be contemplating suicide by jumping off this tree, but Miranda eventually comes down from the tree, and this entire incident is never mentioned again.

When Miranda and Eddie first see Wade at a rest stop, they think Wade is just a harmless weirdo. Wade and Eddie first speak to each other in the men’s room while standing next to each other at urinals. Wade tries to make small talk with Eddie by saying this inarticulate comment: “Place to get away. Remote. In the woods.” Eddie politely says as he walks away, “Yeah, well, have a good one.”

Wade soon rides his motorcycle next to Eddie’s car on the road. Eddie is driving, while Miranda is in the front passenger seat. Wade again attempts to talk to Eddie. Wade says the word “remote.” (Apparently, Wade has a fixation on the word “remote” because he says it several times in the movie.)

Miranda grows impatient with this bizarre and suspicious-looking man, so she curses at him and yells at him to go away. And that’s when all hell breaks loose. Wade shoots his gun and chases after the car on his motorcycle. As already revealed in the movie’s trailer, Wade shoots Eddie to death, while Miranda runs off in the woods.

The rest of “You Can’t Run Forever” is about Wade hunting for Miranda and anyone else who crosses paths with hm. There’s more than one time that Wade catches up to Miranda and could easily shoot her, but he doesn’t, thereby ruining any suspense and making it obvious that she will be one of the final survivors. Don’t expect an idiotic movie like this to explain why Wade decides to shoot some people immediately but then he lets other people get away when they’re right in front of him.

The first time that Miranda calls 911 on her cell phone, there’s a weak signal, so the 911 operator can’t really hear Miranda. But what does Miranda do? She doesn’t try to find an area that has a stronger signal to call 911 again. Miranda just calls her mother Jenny, leaves a message when she gets voice mail, and says what happened to her and Eddie. Jenny eventually gets the voice mail and calls police, but it’s way too long after many other things have already happened to Miranda in the woods.

And what about law enforcement? The local sheriff is out of town, so two bungling deputies are the ones in charge of the investigation and are the ones who are Jenny’s main contacts when she frantically calls for help and to get updates. These two incompetent deputies look like they’re only a few years out of high school and have the inexperience to match. They don’t patrol the woods to warn or evacuate people who could be in harm’s way of the killer.

Deputy Morgan (played by Andres Velez) is the moron who decides that they can’t look for Miranda at night because he thinks it would be too dangerous, even though emergency search parties in real life can and do venture in the woods at night if someone is known to be in immediate danger in a life-or-death situation. Deputy Dwyer (played by Graham Patrick Martin) goes along with whatever Deputy Morgan decides. Even when the deputies know a serial killer is on the loose and is hunting for Miranda, they don’t call for law enforcement backup to look for the killer and Miranda.

Sally, the surviving witness of the gas station murders, is able to give a witness statement and can describe the killer, who is presumed to be the same lone gunman who is now going after Miranda in the woods. A sketch is made of the killer, but the airheaded deputies don’t do much to alert the public with this information about this armed and dangerous murderer. The media coverage of this killer is almost non-existent, which wouldn’t be the case in real life when police know someone has murdered four people within an hour, and the killer is still on the loose. Jenny sees the sketch and immediately has a reaction, as if she knows who Wade is.

In the real world (not in an unrealistic movie like this one), a serial killer on the loose who is currently trying to hunt down another victim in the woods would be an emergency that would get the attention of a lot more law enforcement officers than what’s shown in this junkpile film. The two dimwitted deputies take their time in the investigation. It leads to Emily recruiting some of her friends to go with her to look for Miranda in the woods on their own.

In “You Can’t Run Forever,” people show up randomly in remote areas of the woods. Miranda encounters a teenager named Todd (played by Kevin Quinn), who is camping with his parents. There’s a part of the movie where Todd and Miranda are hiding from Wade, but Todd and Miranda are both talking at normal voice levels, thereby making it easier for Wade to find them if he’s nearby. Yes, the movie really is this stupid.

Wade’s dialogue is supposed to be dark comedy, but it’s just lazy and sloppy screenwriting, even though J.K. Simmons makes attempts to give Wade some personality flair. The mysteries of who Wade is and why he’s become a serial killer are never adequately shown or explained. Wade, who has dead Eddie’s phone, ends up taunting Jenny in ridiculous phone conversations where he frequently calls her “cupcake.”

And if you think it’s entertaining to see Wade masturbate to a photo of Jenny wearing a bikini when Wade sees the photo on dead Eddie’s phone, then “You Can’t Run Forever” is the movie for you. (There’s no nudity in the movie, but the masturbation scene makes it obvious what Wade is doing.) Wade also has a habit of talking to his dead victims as if they’re still alive, when he’s right next to the corpses. This dreadful movie wants that to be funny. It’s not.

The victims and targets of Wade’s deadly mayhem are all hollow characters, with terrible acting from almost everyone in the principal cast. Joe Simmons’ music score is as generic as generic can be. The movie’s direction is erratic and clumsy. The ending of “You Can’t Run Forever” just regurgitates the most boring stereotypes of these types of “killer of the loose” flicks. In other words, “You Can’t Run Forever” should be avoided if you value your time and your brain cells.

Lionsgate released “You Can’t Run Forever” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and on VOD on May 17, 2024.

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