Running with the Devil, 2019.
Written and Directed by Jason Cabell.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Leslie Bibb, Clifton Collins Jr., Barry Pepper, Laurence Fishburne, Peter Facinelli, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, Natalia Reyes, and Luce Rains.
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.
It’s possible that writer/director Jason Cabell is under the impression that he is doing something clever with Running with the Devil by giving his characters titles rather than names (everyone is introduced accompanied by some edgy graphic that feels ripped from the latest third-person shooter video game, and honestly at one point I was expecting the film to pause and ask me which specialty build I would like to play as). Nicolas Cage is a pizzeria cook drug runner, Laurence Fishburne is a sex-crazed coke head selling his own product, Adam Goldberg gets busted trying to discreetly drop off overdosed prostitutes at the request of Fishburne (literally credited as The Man), a little girl wakes up to find her parents died as a result of the new drug, there is a Colombian farmer, and the middle stretch is one extended cocaine run across most of South America. Even Leslie Bibb’s no-nonsense agent trying to get the drugs off the street is lazily referred to as The Agent in Charge.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong opting to not name these characters, but boy does it really add to the blank slate of nothingness they all are. Not even Nicolas Cage is making an effort to redeem this one (although he does shine during the ending which is completely preposterous, hilarious, and somewhat cool to watch). Instead, the burden of injecting this sluggish endeavor with some insanity falls on the shoulder of Laurence Fishburne, an addict that masturbates at a strip joint in his first on-screen appearance (Hustlers has not even been out one weekend and strippers are already back to the background). He is clearly having a ball, strutting around nightclubs and spending the night unintentionally overdosing prostitutes while fornicating with them, all during a time-lapse sequence, instead of attending to parental responsibilities like his daughter’s piano recital.
On the other hand, Nicolas Cage plays The Cook, and is reportedly given next to nothing to go off of as a character besides having a family. He’s called in to oversee a massive drug run that takes up the entire second act in the movie (rival cartels and federal agents are hot on the tail), making for a few bloody shootouts involving random characters where it’s hard to care what happens. Running with the Devil is all about showing you more and more characters that all seem to be in a different movie. Nicolas Cage is surprisingly subtle with minimal dialogue, whereas Laurence Fishburne is chewing the scenery like he got the part Nicolas Cage was intended to play.
Still, it’s obvious that there is so much stuffed into one thriller that almost all of it becomes white noise. Over 20 minutes in, characters were still being introduced with the same distractingly terrible title graphic reducing them to a single trait instead of a fully fleshed-out personality; it doesn’t even feel like the movie properly begins until the 30-minute mark, and by that point, you will likely already be checked out. Even the bursts of action are generic and never elicit a sense of excitement.
The story somewhat picks up once Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne cross paths, as they do have a connection together that I won’t reveal. It feels forced, especially when the double-crosses occur leading to a telegraphed finale, but it is an attempt to do something of note with these characters. There’s a few of them that you will forget even exist by the time the credits roll. This wouldn’t matter so much if the movie was at least entertaining, but it’s not unless Laurence Fishburne is making a fool of himself. Running with the Devil? More like dying with the devil from boredom.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com