2015 / Director. Austin Stark.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Nicolas Cage has become such a perplexity. Since his financial woes, the last decade has seen him commit to a concerning amount of direct-to-video fodder, most of which have been well below standard. From nauseating rubbish such as LEFT BEHIND to dislikable gunk along the lines of OUTCAST, it's been a time in his career that he probably hopes to forget. Fortunately there have been a few absolute gems in between them like JOE and FROZEN GROUND which have been keeping his reputation afloat (just). His latest title to fly under the radar is THE RUNNER and it meanders between the good and the bad.
Cage plays a Louisianan politician campaigning amidst the 2010 BP oil spill. When an impassioned speech he makes to congress propels his reputation and places him in the national spotlight he finds himself on a crusade to help the hundreds of local businesses who have been displaced and ruined by the disaster. As quickly as his popularity skyrocketed, he takes a monumental nosedive when his affair with a younger fisherman's wife is exposed. Suddenly he is faced with a sex scandal and an alcoholic relapse, while his father is also facing serious health issues.
THE RUNNER kicks off at a cracking pace and sets itself up to be a taut political drama. Cage fits the bill very well and is given a good script with strong dialogue. He's also supported by proficient performances from the likes of Connie Nelson, Sarah Paulson and Peter Fonda. The cinematography is quite strong and the New Orleans atmosphere is captured fittingly.
Unfortunately midway into the film everything begins to unravel. Once the narrative's focus switches from the environmental crisis to the less interesting sex scandal, the whole damn thing slows down and struggles to recalibrate. The scandal itself is dull and the whole alcoholic relapse threatens to undo all of the good work that was put into the first forty-five minutes. Being a fictitious story set against a true event, the story's strength lies in exploring the disaster and the political ramifications of challenging the oil industry... not the personal indiscretions of a politician.
With those grievances aside there is a lot to like about THE RUNNER. While it's not consistently satisfying the strength of its cast and a nicely understated sense of control lift it above the average DTV drivel. And the fact that it arrived without any fanfare serves it well. Without any preconceived expectations it is a drama that should appeal to the average armchair critic and proves to be a technically competent piece of filmmaking.