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With: Nicolas Cage, Leslie Bibb, Laurence Fishburne, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Clifton Collins Jr., Cole Hauser, Natalia Reyes, Peter Facinelli, Tait Fletcher, Sarah Minnich
Written by: Jason Cabell
Directed by: Jason Cabell
MPAA Rating: R for violence and disturbing images, drug use, strong sexual content, and language
Running Time: 100
Date: 09/20/2019

Running with the Devil (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Coke Hold

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This crime procedural is consistently fascinating, charting the minutiae and changing hands of the drug business but it also tries to be a bit too clever, and neglects the characters in the process.

In Running with the Devil, a man called The Cook (Nicolas Cage) uses his restaurant as part of a cocaine ring. One day he gets a call from The Boss (Barry Pepper); something is going wrong somewhere along the line, and the shipments have been arriving light. So The Cook goes on a worldwide tour, monitoring the latest shipment, starting from the farm where it is initially harvested by The Farmer (Clifton Collins Jr.), to its arrival in the U.S.A.

What The Cook doesn't yet know is that his associate, The Man (Laurence Fishburne) has been cutting and re-selling the drug on the side. After a snag in the plan, The Cook and The Man must carry the drugs cross-country in the snowy wilderness, where anything could happen to either one of them. And an FBI agent (Leslie Bibb) is hot on their trail.

Writer and director Jason Cabell is clearly intrigued by this whole process; after all the movies about cocaine dealing, Running with the Devil may be the first one to show how it's farmed; these sequences have an ironically pure, sweet quality as the farmer's wife takes the kids out of school so they can help harvest, and the pride the farmer takes in preparing the product. Yet for all this enthrallment, Cabell also acknowledges the industry's evil side later in the story.

The movie is likewise fascinated with power — illustrating how any number of penny-ante drug lords always have a boss above them — and money, providing text that charts the way the drug's value rises after every stop it makes. But while Cage does his best, playing a two-sided character, a schlubby, puffy homebody and pizza chef who turns on cool confidence while working the drug trade, the rest of the characters disappear inside their one-word descriptors.

Fishburne, for example, has a blast behaving badly as "The Man," but never comes to life, and the same goes for the rest of the otherwise able cast. But Running with the Devil gets points for effort, and it's worth a look.

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