Directed by Tung Wang
Produced by Kuo-Liang Hsu
Written by Hsiao-Yeh and Ming-liang Tsai
Cast: Ju-Feng Ma,Emily Y. Chang,Bing-Chen Teng,
Jui Wang,Chung-Kuei Chang,Hui Lou Chen,
Lung Chien,Wei-Hsiung Ho,Chien-Yung Hung,
Chun Ku,Kuan Ku,Kuan Kuan,Wen Tai Li,
Yun-Pao Lu and Te-Yun Pei
The daughter of a peasant is wisped away by a band of bandits. One of the bandits finds an uneasy connection with the young woman that changes their lives in a dramatic way.
Cinema’s take on bandits is often little more than faceless goons. An understandable stance since banditry is a dubious profession that attracts the scum of the lowest caliber. 1985’s Run Away puts bandits in the spotlight. An unexpected shift in perspective that casts the story in a subversive light.
Banditry as a mode of living is both explored and exposed thoroughly. The lifestyle of bandits more than the very peasants they oppressed is chaotic. At least, the peasants have the means to keep their life sustainable in the long run. While the bandits’ tendency to be hapless freeloaders gives them no means to be self-sufficient. There’s little or any practical difference from bandits and parasites.
The daily humdrum of a bandit is a hedonistic existence with little to no reassurance of anything. Since the bandits rely constantly on intimidation to frighten peasants, that constant reliance on intimidation slips into how the bandits interact among themselves. As the relationship among the bandits is marked by distrust and fierce competition. So, in all, banditry entails a brutal experience that dehumanizes those who partake in it and their victims. Its a hand to mouth existence that is self-destructive. Run Away’s camerawork takes a page out of documentary style filmmaking. The camera angles tends to maximize the surroundings so the framing does feel more naturalistic. Run Away’s cinematic style evokes a strong realism and the combat is depicted in a similar fashion.
Run Away’s critical dissection of what bandits are undergirds its drama. Ho Nan, the chief bandit that we follow is a contemptible figure. He commits immoral acts of the highest order. Yet,Ho Nan somehow earns our sympathy, or, at least, our pity, because the desperation that being a bandit entails is a believable one. Ho Nan’s life as a bandit is leading him to ruin and he’s wise enough to be aware of that impending doom. He’s willing to reestablish his life as a peasant to escape his self-destructive lifestyle. Dan Ju, the kidnapped victim that is trapped finds herself empathizing with some of the bandits. Which does reek with an uncomfortable implication of Stockholm syndrome when Dan Ju is implied to have feelings for Ho Nan. Though, this change in Dan Ju is forced, it does kick off the final act with an intriguing dilemma. The final act capitalizes on their personal struggles in a fulfilling way that makes good on the narrative themes and events.
Run Away is a revealing purview of banditry. Its shortcomings and the inhuman conditions it produces. Also, a story of how breaking from its confinement can be a powerful lesson in soul searching and one’s place in society.