When a cocaine shipment is compromised to the dismay of the Cartel’s ringleader, The Boss (Barry Pepper) orders his most trusted Man (Laurence Fishburne) and another master drug trafficker, The Cook (Nicolas Cage), on a dangerous journey to audit the company’s supply chain.
Fishburne and Cage are some of my favourite action heroes. I grew up watching their films. They are more than familiar faces, they are household names recognized by at least three generations. Fishburne was Morpheus, Mr. Clean, Captain Miller, and Dr. Langston. Cage has been Cameron Poe, Castor Troy, Memphis, Yuri Orlov (God, I love that movie), and the guy that steals the declaration of independence. These two are powerhouses of the film industry and names that will get your movie recognized. That said, both actors do not shy away from playing more obscure, quirky characters with Cage, in particular, having the reputation of not being able to turn down a role. Is Running with the Devil two aging actors taking a paycheck to star in a mediocre action flick, or is it something worth your time?
The film is both a directorial debut as well as a writing credit for first-time filmmaker, Jason Cabell. Having served in over a hundred countries worldwide, Cabell desired to use his background and military experience as the basis for the film’s direction and content. Well, that’s the claim. In reality, I’m not sure how much of that military background came into use as most of the film was pretty standard fare. I’ve seen just as many ports and forests and did not notice anything particular to Cabell’s military background…this is not a military film, it is a drug trafficking film and those two things never cross paths, right?
My biggest issue with the film is that there are so many concurrent narratives taking place and no central protagonist—unless you consider cocaine a character. There’s most definitely a story to follow and The Man and The Cook take up most of the screen time, but the truth is obscured through the film’s purposeful obfuscation; the shady deals, the skulduggery and snitches, the insanity of the cartel networks—it’s discontinuous and oftentimes chaotic, and while that may very well be the point—the madness and wanton carnage of the cartels—it hampers the flow of the film considerably.
Fishburne’s character is easily the most enjoyable; completely off the wall and hilarious. I’d say he was the best part of the movie, but that “sex scene” montage really went and broke the suspension of disbelief. How so? How do you film a drug-fuelled orgy when he clearly never takes off his pants? Whether this was Fishburne’s contractual demands to show no skin (I’m not asking for full-frontal, but a butt cheek could have really saved that scene) or whether Cabell just dropped the ball or was being sheepish about the film’s age rating, I just don’t know. I also don’t know why that bothered me so much, but it did. It was absurd and farcical but at least worth a laugh watching Fishburne dry-hump for two minutes.
Cage, for the majority of the film, just comes across as annoyed. With his character clearly not impressed with having to travel around fixing other’s people’s mistakes, Cage successfully channels this energy into making us believe he really doesn’t want to be doing this film. Jokes aside, I wanted to see a little more…energy. He lacked that usual excentricity that I enjoy.
It is hard to find fault with the technical aspects of the film aside from its chaotic direction. The camera work, score, and visuals were good. The action shots, special effects, and settings were vivid, the settings varied and visually striking, and the characters interesting. There are a lot of goods elements, but a couple of big faults and a healthy sprinkle of cliches make it a mixed bag.
For the majority of the movie, we follow the journey of the product rather than the journey of the people. We see it cut, killed over, fucked for, and fervently snarfed. The film has all the trappings of your typical drug traffic flick and little else. It was hard to take seriously but was good, mindless shenanigans for its hundred-minute runtime. For a first effort, Cabell did far better than most. Thanks for reading and stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
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