Most Nicolas Cage VOD films inevitably disappoint because the actor will appear in pretty much anything, for any amount of time, and end up billed as the star. Today’s Cage promise seems to be unhinged, memorable, exciting. However, Cage is a real actor — or was — and he puts his all into most of his roles no matter how small. Running With the Devil is a movie with a lot on its mind, and Cage is mostly absent from the first two acts. He’s playing a presence in a movie without the patience to embrace it.
For most of its two-hour running time, Devil concerns itself with supporting characters and episodic narratives that trace cocaine from its manufacturer in Colombia all the way to Canada across land, sea and air. Cage plays the Cook, one of the best enforcers for the Boss (Barry Pepper), who’s tasked out of retirement to trace said cocaine’s path from the Farmer (Clifton Collins Jr.) to the Man (Laurence Fishburne). None of the characters have names, and their blunt descriptors appear when we first meet them throughout the movie. Every single one. Every character. Twenty minutes in and the film is still freeze-framing to define characters whose actions are pretty explicitly defining them. Anyway. Forget Cage: The real lead here is Leslie Bibb as, literally, the Agent in Charge.
OK, so, the Agent in Charge is chasing the shipment because her sister was killed by an overdose. She hates drugs. She’s constantly behind the 8 ball, never catching the shipment that the Cook is following from one mule to another. Occasionally the Man sleeps with a hooker or does heroin. On more than one occasion, characters sleep with various women of the night and then callously discard them (dead and / or alive) as an excuse for some on-screen titillation. It’s an aimless film without the style to be sexy or the humor to feel remotely alive.
As with any low-budget thriller brought straight to TV screens, Running With the Devil does inevitably have a few interesting sequences. These come late in the movie and are mostly excuses for Fishburne to unleash his inner Cage, as it were. Kudos to Fishburne for taking a role like this just for fun or pay or whatever and really embracing the beast, but there’s not much more to Devil than him. Fellow critic Nick Rogers asked if they got the rights to pay for Van Halen’s 1979 hit “Running with the Devil.” They barely had the funds to tweak their aimless script.