Jason Cabell’s solo directorial debut Running with the Devil is refreshing in its commitment to harsh realities over cheap thrills, for the most part. Unfortunately this doesn’t make the film particularly memorable.
The head of a drug cartel sends two of his trusted assistants to investigate why a batch of cocaine went missing on its way from Mexico to Canada. The pair need to go through the chain to identify the problem…
An early shot of Running with the Devil is reminiscent of the very famous tracking shot from Goodfellas. Writer-director Jason Cabell uses this to set up a sharp contrast between the glamour of recreational drug use, and the brutality of the growing and supply industry.
This contrast returns time and time again in Cabell’s film. The Colombian family existence is a world away from The Cook’s comfortable lifestyle. The narrative begins to pick up pace at around twenty minutes in. The film is sufficiently engaging, although it is relatively silly situation which propels the story.
Given the nature of the film, Running with the Devil is not as tense as it could be. There are some heightened moments, but the film is a little flat for a thriller. The tracking of the cocaine and its steadily increasing price is a good device to emphasise the length and danger of the journey. The complete lack of character names is an odd stylistic decision.
The use of dialogue is restrained; exposition is takes prominence in practically every conversation. There is not a lot of character building in the film, which is fine for the purposes of the story, but does not help with the generating of tension. A few key moments lack the gravitas they should have had. Cabell may have felt he needed a wild ending, but the twist is unearned and rather disappointing.
Performances in Running with the Devil are perfectly fine. None of the cast members really excel. Nicolas Cage is more restrained than normal, Leslie Bibb and Laurence Fishburne are not stretched by the film. The score tries its best to add tension, but is sometimes intrusive. The editing is abrupt on occasion.
Running with the Devil is a case of execution not quite matching ambition.
Running with the Devil will be available on Digital Download from 4th November 2019, and can be pre-ordered here