Running with the Devil, written and directed by Jason Cabell, is the newest insane B-movie thriller starring Nicolas Cage. However, unlike other similar films, Cage somehow seems like the most sane person in this entire venture, everyone and everything else around him being what is off the rails.
The movie is about two high-level members of a drug operation who are sent to investigate why the supply is being cut somewhere on the supply chain. Unfortunately, with the way the film is structured, there is absolutely no mystery involved in the story. Pretty much from the beginning of the movie, the audience is let in on some information that the characters don’t know, ruining any suspense and leaving the audience watching the characters bumbling around.
Watching ignorant characters bumble around can be fun… but there are simply too many characters involved in this film. So many characters are introduced as potential suspects of the person cutting the supply, but since the audience knows the true culprit, all of these red herrings ultimately feel like wasted time. The movie tries to pass it off as some form of intelligent chaos, but it simply does not work.
Yet despite the amount of characters there are in the film, it still manages to feel frustratingly stagnant. There are some interesting scenes throughout, but those good moments never come into a narrative that feels cohesive or satisfying. A part of the issue is that the end of the movie is telegraphed and obvious, but another issue is that the film is simply too crazy for its own good.
And for a Nicolas Cage movie, there is precious little action to be found. More of the film’s enjoyability comes from the sheer absurdity of what is happening on screen. Some of the things that Laurence Fishburne does in this movie are pretty crazy and not something one would expect to see from a respected and Oscar-nominated actor.
Regardless, Fishburne goes all in on his role and is a ton of fun to watch. Granted, it is far from his most nuanced or complex work, but it is surprisingly satisfying to watch him act high and do stupid things. Cage’s performance is more subtle than most of his recent work, but that is mostly because Fishburne steals the spotlight with his insanity so many times.
On a technical level, the film has mixed success. There are quite a few ambitious sequences in the movie. One of the most notable is the one introducing the audience to Fishburne’s character and his stilted perception of reality with some interesting cinematography and editing. That said, other sequences feel painfully dull and by-the-book.
One can’t fault Running with the Devil for being boring, but despite the amount of energy the film has, it suffers from a lack of narrative momentum. There are simply too many moving parts for this movie to be successful. Still, thanks to Fishburne’s wacky and over-the-top performance, it is entirely watchable.
Running with the Devil hits theaters and VOD on September 20.