Drugs are everywhere- in big cities, in small cities, for the young and the old. Even with different types like cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl being grossly illegal in most countries, they still manage to find their way into every aspect of society. Running with the Devil, a movie written and directed by retired Navy Seal Jason Cabell, attempts to explain exactly how a tiny bag of white powder goes from being grown in a South American jungle all the way to The Boss (Barry Pepper).
The movie begins with The Farmer (Clifton Collins Jr.), who employs his wife (Natalia Reyes) and two children to grow into existence 100% South American cocaine. The movie uses the momentum of the transportation of the bricks up the countryside, carried in a hiker’s backpack, closer and closer to its final destination.
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Cabell keeps the flick overly simplified, breaking down each character in each person’s role in relation to the cocaine. The Agent in Charge (Leslie Bibb) is the DEA officer relentlessly chasing the drugs and the nefarious characters transporting it, along with her sidekick, Number One (Peter Facinelli). Refreshing to see the ‘good guys’ being portrayed as being human and not just their traditionally do-gooding, one-dimensional selves. They have real world ties to the world of drugs and overdosing, not only being motivated to just catch the ‘bad guys.’
The Cook (Nicolas Cage) plays a strange role in the whole story, not really knowing or understanding his connection to anyone except that he is tasked by The Boss with following this one particular shipment since they have encountered trouble with the previous one. He and The Executioner (Cole Hauser) appear to have the best luck in the world following the cocaine and its myriad of transporters, intercepting where things go wrong and righting everything, so the package keeps moving along its intended path. One has to wonder though if they are so adept at this why not eliminate all these middlemen and just do the job themselves?
The Man (Laurence Fishbourne) is the standout player of this tale as the addicted drug dealer, whose life is filled with prostitutes and drug induced orgies. He is attempting to improve the recipe by cutting the cocaine to improve the rate of addiction, which actually begs the question, do drug dealers really need to hook their customers even more? Along with his friend, who ultimately becomes The Snitch (Adam Goldberg), they have the only redeeming moments of this movie and both deliver great performances throughout their part in the story.
This movie is the second to be written and directed by Cabell, his first being the poignant 2016 Smoke Filled Lungs which he co-directed with Asif Akbar, wrote the screenplay, and put himself in the starring role. A heart-wrenching tale of a veteran returning home to a family in crisis is what you would expect from Cabell since his career spans 20 years with many deployments. This time though Cabell stays behind the camera and tells the tale of drug trafficking with very little dialogue and even more minimal character development. Even with actor powerhouses like Fishbourne and Cage in the leading roles, the cocaine is the true star in this movie and not in any type of encapsulating or engrossing way.
Having a retired Navy Seal penning the tale with ties to the foreign DEA during his long career in the Navy, one has to wonder what his intended message really is throughout this movie. With so little dialogue and a predictable plot line, the takeaway from this film is Cabell should stick to writing and directing topics from his wheelhouse, and with having a lifetime career of being on the right side of the law on the war with drugs, his attempt at telling a story from the perspective of the drug traffickers falls flat and lacks any type of real depth engaging the audience to really care where the story is going.
Running With The Devil is available on digital download from 4th November 2019, and will be released on DVD on 6th January 2020.