Running With The Devil Image

Running With The Devil

By Andrew Stover | January 8, 2020

The culprit responsible for the diluted cocaine is unmasked early on. Laurence Fishburne’s “The Man” is a wastrel of a father, awfully invested in prurient matters, and addicted to the stuff he sells. Fishburne is incredibly unconvincing as a drug, and sex addict, whose attempts at masturbation and being high are unintentionally funny and off-putting. Little does Cage know, Fishburne’s character isn’t far away. Bibb’s “Agent in Charge” is suitably waspish, and just as motivated as Cage to find the person behind the adulterated cocaine. Earlier on, Bibb saw the heartbreaking aftermath of her sister and brother-in-law overdosing on Fishburne’s tainted coke. There are lucid motivators that are steering Cage, Bibb, Pepper, and even Fishburne. Cage has no choice but to fulfill the wishes of his boss; Bibb feels the need to avenge the death of her sister; Pepper has to sustain control of his drug business by not allowing the product to be foolishly altered, while Fishburne is craving a more impactful high. 

In this 97-minute crime picture, there are the habitual double-crosses, dead bodies, corruption, and torture. As expected, everyone’s a victim here, a hostage to external or internal distress that paints them without any strokes of purity or humanity. Refraining from getting too attached to any character, including the resolute detective who’s affected by tragedy, Cabell’s thriller doesn’t try to be lurid, stirring, or groundbreaking. In a slight sense, the fact that these vile characters are abruptly severed, tortured, or barbaric, with Cabell keeping his distance, the more admirable Running with the Devil becomes. Cabell never relies on superfluous violence, particularly for those who are just obstacles in the way. For “The Cook,” “Kingpin The Boss,” or “The Executioner” (Cole Hauser), taking one’s life is not a sport, and Cabell treats it that way by not indulging viewers with inessential violence. 

“…Cabell never relies on superfluous violence…”

A film can borrow from other projects, but it all comes down to the execution — and more often than not, the collection of subplots in Running with the Devil aren’t utilized in a fashion that compellingly amplifies the characters’ ambitions or choices. A series of absurd twists leave no impression, largely because they were foreseeable, or the betrayal holds little to no weight. Maybe that’s the point. Even so, the twists are also too cartoonish to take seriously in a movie that’s set on being solemn. In one of the more interesting observations evoked by Cabell’s script, the film follows one shipment from the time it leaves the grower’s hands (at $1,600 per kilo) to a Colombian port ($4,000) to a Veracruz port ($8,000). As the shipment continues its journey, the price continues to increase. In this case, Cabell yields analytic surveillance of the evolving profit of coke as it makes numerous stops around the globe. Regrettably, any stab to enliven the peril of the drug cartel business is overpowered by ineptly deployed clichés. In one terribly predicted scene, the Mexican kingpin cooks a delectable meal before slicing the victim’s throat. 

Boasting an astounding cast — Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Leslie Bibb, and Clifton Collins Jr. — it’s even more disheartening that Running with the Devil is a garbled crime expedition that never follows through on its various subplots. And in this instance, a low-spirited Cage and a high-spirited Fishburne are no fun. There’s something to be said about Jason Cabell’s detachment from the characters and violence, but maddening clichés, inflated twists, and dangling conflicts bring this thriller to a halt. 

Running With The Devil (2019)

Directed and Written: Jason Cabell

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Leslie Bibb, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

Running With The Devil Image

"…the habitual double-crosses, dead bodies, corruption, and torture."

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