Running With the Devil Review
Nicolas Cage was due for a bad movie. 'Running With the Devil' is it.
Release Date: September 20, 2019
MPAA Rating: R
The CEO of an International conglomerate sends two of his most regarded executives to investigate why shipments of cocaine are being hijacked and over cut somewhere on the supply chain.
Director: Jason Cabell
Screenwriter: Jason Cabell
Producers: Michael Mendelsohn, Jim Steele,
Cast: Nicolas Cage (The Cook), Laurence Fishburne (The Man), Leslie Bibb (The Agent in Charge), Peter Facinelli (Number One), Barry Pepper (The Boss), Cole Hauser (The Executioner), Clifton Collins Jr. (The Farmer), Adam Goldberg (The Snitch), Natalia Reyes (The Woman), Tait Fletcher (The Collector), Sarah Minnich (The Wife)
Editor: Jordan Goldman
Cinematographer: Cory Geryak
Production Designers: Wil Albarez, Scott Christopher Clark
Casting Director: Valerie McCaffrey
Music Score: Reinhold Heil
Ah, Nicolas Cage. The prolific actor who never seems to turn down a role. For every good movie he does, he also does at least one bad one; for every Joe or Kick-Ass, he makes a Trespass or a Snowden. The latest in his quest for paychecks is the forgettable drug smuggling drama Running With the Devil.
Running With the Devil stars Cage as a restauranteur, known only as The Cook, who moonlights as a cocaine trafficker. When a shipment is compromised, The Cook is asked by his boss, known simply as The Boss (Saving Private Ryan’s Barry Pepper), to travel the path of the drugs from South America all the way to the States and find out where things are going wrong. So The Cook pairs up with another one of The Boss’ henchmen, The Man (Event Horizon’s Laurence Fishburne – are you noticing the pattern with the character names?), and follows the drugs.
The operation has a bigger problem than a cut supply, however – thanks to The Snitch (Adam Goldberg, also from Saving Private Ryan), the duo has attracted the attention of the DEA, and The Agent in Charge (Tag’s Leslie Bibb) and her Number One (Peter Facinelli from the Twilight saga) are hot on their tail. Their journey is riddled with cartel rivals, federales, and American agents, all of whom want a piece of the action.
While Running With the Devil may be exciting in its own way, there’s very little substance to the movie. The events of the plot defy logic, so while it’s fun to watch at times, the audience finds itself rolling its eyes and shaking its head through the entire thing. Writer/director Jason Cabell (Smoke Filled Lungs) has basically made an exploitation movie that takes itself way too seriously.
Just about everything in Running With the Devil will seem familiar. The sheer number of characters, the loosely-tied-together events, and the vast expanse of the varying locations gives it a Traffic-lite feel, and even the most casual of viewers will recognize plot elements from “Breaking Bad” sprinkled throughout. Imitation is not always a bad thing, but Running With the Devil doesn’t do its influences justice. It actually feels like a shallow imitation of a better movie.
There are some glimpses of greatness in the movie. An early scene where a little girl tells her school bus driver that she can’t wake her mom up after an overdose is heartbreaking. The fact that the film keeps a running tab on the price per kilo of cocaine as it makes its way along the route is fascinating. While none of it is jaw-dropping, there are twists and turns along the way, and even though the ending is predictable, it’s still as gripping as a car crash – you know what you’re going to see, but you’re still glued to it. The performances are hit and miss (Cage and Fishburne are as good as ever, Bibb is completely out of her element), but that’s to be expected with such a typical and cut-rate script. Not every actor can rise above the words on the page. And not every actor can elevate the people around them.
There’s a school of thought that says that Nicolas Cage peaked in 1997 when he made both Face/Off and Con Air in the same year, and that he should have retired then and there. Okay, so maybe it’s just me who says that. And if he had quit while he was ahead, we wouldn’t have gotten to see him in great movies like 8MM and Adaptation. But we also wouldn’t have to see him in sludge like Running With the Devil.