Running with the Devil (2019)


“It’s Nic Cage. How bad could it be?”
     Running with the Devil is the answer to that rather hopeful question: bad, very bad. It’s a terrible film, dull and tedious and mostly incoherent, with scenes that just sit there, dunce-like. It’s blandly written and inconsequentially directed (by Jason Cabell, an ex-Navy SEAL, who should know something about action at least), and while Cage is known for doing pretty much anything for money, his co-star Laurence Fishburne is not. Fishburne performs nobly, creating a totally despicable character, but even his efforts aren’t enough to warrant a viewing.
     Cabell’s film is essentially about a bump in the road, a hiccough in the supply chain of a venal, Vancouver-based entrepreneur whose cocaine shipments keep winding up a little lighter than when they left Colombia. The Boss is played by Barry Pepper, who first came to my attention in Tommy Lee Jones’s intense The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. He’s a lot broader here. Said boss puts his best men on the job, a cook—another puffy, bespectacled Cage creation—and a degenerate who’s addicted to coke and prostitutes (Fishburne). Slim pickins in the drug underworld, apparently.
     For dramatic tension, the feds have their best man on the case trotting along too—Iron Man’s Leslie Bibb plays The Agent in Charge who’s not averse to using a few underhanded tactics (read: torture) to get what she wants. Adam Goldberg, a snitch, winds up on the business end of a cattle prod I think.
     Everyone in this film, pretty much without exception, is a lowlife and as the trail bops from Bogota to Tijuana to Seattle and just about every port of call in between, the shipment’s street value rises exponentially—that part was sort of interesting, actually. But with all the running around it’s hard not to get a little seasick, a little airsick, a little rather a lot sick of the whole nasty business.
     Shouldn’t a Nic Cage movie be, at the very least, ridiculous fun? Running with the Devil is just plain ridiculous.

(c) 2019 David N. Butterworth

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