Film Review: Running with the Devil

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

Film Review: Zookeeper

Zookeeper is pretty much what you would you would expect from a film starring Kevin James and produced by Adam Sandler. It is mildly entertaining fare, and not as funny as it should be.

Griffin is a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo. Five years ago, he had his heart broken by Stephanie when she turned down his marriage proposal. She is back on the scene in the run up to Griffin’s brother’s wedding, but Griffin is clueless about how to act. His beloved animals see this, and reveal a crucial secret: they can speak. The animals make it their duty to help Griffin with his love life…

Zookeeper follows a strict formula, which makes it predictable. Director Frank Coraci relies on stock archetypes to populate his film. Both the humans and the animals are very stereotypical, offering little in terms of innovation. Zookeeper is very much by the numbers, which would not be much of a problem if the film was funnier.

As it stands, the film lacks consistent humour. There are a few fairly amusing moments, but the film can never be described as hilarious. Many of the jokes rely upon the personalities of the animals. If you do not find these characters amusing, you are unlikely to find the humour funny.

Despite the presence of talking animals, perhaps what is most difficult to believe is that two very attractive women would be in a love triangle with Kevin James. This may seem like a shallow contention, but the women are both very attractive. Moreover, Griffin is not a particularly charming character. He is a nice guy, but he does not have a fantastic personality. And, for the misfortune of the two female characters and the entire audience, Griffin is not funny.

The casting in Zookeeper is hit and miss. Sylvester Stallone and Cher are most appropriate as the lions Joe and Janet. Nick Nolte brings some presence to the film as Bernie the gorilla. Adam Sandler, however, is abominable as Donald the monkey. The character has some of the best lines, which are ruined by Sandler’s sub-par delivery. Kevin James delivers his usual routine as Griffin, while Leslie Bibb is suitably one-dimensional as Stephanie. Rosario Dawson is decent, but restricted by her underdeveloped role.

Zookeeper does offer good special effects as well as some great animal actors. Nevertheless, it lacks the humour really required in a film such as this.