The Runner, 2015.
Written and Directed Austin Stark.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Sarah Paulson, Connie Nielsen, Peter Fonda, Wendell Pierce and Bryan Batt.
In the aftermath of the 2010 BP oil spill, an idealistic but flawed politician is forced to confront his dysfunctional life after his career is destroyed in a sex scandal.
Whether they are screened in theaters or released straight to VOD, any movie starring Nicolas Cage feels like an event. Will he be hamming his performance up to batshit crazy levels of hilarity, or showing signs of the once great dramatic actor that won an Academy Award? Somehow the man has become a legend, but The Runner proves to be skippable for even the actor’s most ardent and diehard fans.
Playing a politician disgraced for infidelity, Colin Pryce is a congressman with good intentions during the aftermath of the BP oil crisis. As a New Orleans, Louisiana native, Colin cares about the businessmen and all the hard-working lower-class citizens affected, but as usual society would rather obsess over who he is f******, slandering his name along with his campaign in the process. Seriously, I spent most of this movie just upset that society would smear someone with legitimately good intentions just because of a shady marital relationship that doesn’t affect them, but that’s reality. And because of that we have a plot and a movie.
Anyway, this sends him into self-destructive behavior as he reverts back to bad habits like alcoholism and sleeping around with even more women. Naturally, this all feels like it’s heading towards a triumphant political underdog story where a good man at heart reclaims his glory, his wife, and accomplishes all of his goals by running and winning for Senate, but it’s actually just a plodding, boring mess without focus.
There are a number of supporting characters ranging from Colin’s wife, his assistant, his father, men in power attempting to bribe him, and more, but none of them are defined and worth caring about. Part of this is due to the awkward pacing of the film which transitions from plot point to plot point without really saying much or adding anything to Colin’s character. The Runner is more interested in using these characters to further showcase Colin’s downward spiral but it fails, because Colin himself is really just a walking cliché.
Brace yourselves for what I’m about to say, but it’s no fault of Nicolas Cage. The Louisiana native rarely overacts and instead gives a rather admirable dramatic performance, but the script doesn’t really allow for viewers to get engaged. Case in point: the movie thinks it’s deep and smart by attributing a double meaning to its title considering Colin not only runs for various political spots, but literally likes to go on runs to clear his mind and gain some focus. This coupled with the usual indulgences of men falling apart make for a weak script begging to get by on tropes and a false sense of intelligence.
Also, much of the dialogue is technical political jargon that will undoubtedly go over the head of many moviegoers. It’s hard to really care about what people are saying when you have no idea what is actually being said. And not enough time is spent with the supporting characters for them to either make their own mark in the story or have an effect on Colin.
The only real thing The Runner has going for it is a subversive ending despite the predictable nature of the rest of the narrative. Even so, it’s not that great of a resolution and just leaves us with a feeling of indifference. Speaking of indifference, that’s really the perfect word to summarize The Runner. No one will revisit this one for Nicolas Cage shenanigans or solid acting, because the movie is just an exercise in boredom that could have been so much more in the hands of a stronger writer/director.
As one last final note, it has to be mentioned that there is so much better political drama to be found on primetime television and Netflix. There really is no point in wasting your time with this movie unless you have some goal of self-punishment to witness every Nicolas Cage performance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook