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    The Runner (2015): Movie Review

    “A lousy and tiring run into a politician’s troubled life.”  

    Nicolas Cage stars as a congressman in the midst of extramarital scandal and family dysfunction in The Runner, the directorial debut of Austin Stark which he wrote himself. With decent intentions but fragile execution, the film provides insight into the glories and sacrifices of political compromise.

    It was 2010 and the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Louisiana caused tremendous damages to local fishermen and tourist businesses. Moved by the incident, Congressman Colin Pryce (Cage) delivers a passionate speech about the economic impact of the catastrophe. His words cause positive reverberations as his political profile is raised considerably. Receiving some backup resources, Colin sets his eyes on the senate.

    However, Colin’s private life is subjected to deeper scrutiny. Much to his surprise, camera footage of his elevator quickie with a cheerleading coach and wife of a local African-American fisherman surfaces. While social media immediately feast on the scandal, Colin faces an impending divorce from his attorney wife Deborah (Connie Nielsen). With his career on the tailspin, his former-mayor father, Rayne Pryce (Peter Fonda), comes back to offer words of wisdom but only ends up having more personal issues with him.

    Broken and confused, Colin resorts to more alcohol and a dangerous budding romance with his married consultant and publicist Kate Haber (Sarah Paulson). But Colin knows he must get his life back on the tracks and there is only one way he can do it – go back to basics and continue the fight with the fishermen he swore to protect. 

    The Runner feels like a tired ninety-plus-minute jog into the life of a legislator ravaged by a scandal. Despite being grave, familiar and cliché, individual elements can potentially compose an engaging plot. Forbidden affairs, alcoholism, oil spill and daddy issues are promising stories but the film is not quite successful in unifying them into a solid whole. What results is a shallow, dull and uninspiring political tale.

    The main protagonist is also an unlikable character and it is hard to root for him. With his endless booze and playing with fire, his self-destructive tendencies do not solicit any kind of sympathy from viewers. He appears a good man though, but the movie is rather unconvincing in creating a faulty man with the kindest political intentions. Except for Colin Pryce, other characters are underwritten and predictably drawn.

    Like the movie itself, Cage looks tired, weary and heavy. The film is not visually flattering for him and yet, Cage’s timeless charisma and acting calibre is undeniable. His delivery is sincere and his speeches pierce through. Meanwhile, the talents of Nielsen and Paulson, playing the women in Colin’s life, are underappreciated and not maximized. 

    The Runner is a character-driven movie, revolving around a flawed yet decent man. Appearing mostly in suits or Tulane shirt, Cage has an appealing performance. However, it is difficult to care for his distasteful character. With its seemingly weak narrative, the film is generic and forgettable. In the end, it feels more like an episode in any television law and court drama series.


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