Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 27, 2015)
Another day, another Nicolas Cage direct-to-video movie! In 2015’s The Runner, we meet Louisiana Congressman Colin Pryce (Cage). After the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill in the waters off his home state, Pryce tries to change the system that allowed this mess to emerge.
As Pryce advocates for “green” solutions and the end of drilling in the Gulf, he makes powerful enemies. These forces conspire to derail his career, as Pryce ends up involved in a scandal, though one partly of his own making since the married Pryce carries on an affair.
I took a look at Cage’s filmography, and by my estimation, he last played the lead in a major motion picture with 2010’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Even with that big-budget box office disappointment, Cage has been off the “A-list” for quite some time. I don’t think Cage has starred in a genuine live-action hit since 2004’s National Treasure.
I wouldn’t comment on Cage’s fall from box office grace if he embraced “quality films”. Instead, Cage seems to be happy to grab a paycheck from anyone who throws cash his way. While Runner comes with more noble aspirations than crap like Drive Angry or Left Behind, it winds up as another Cage misfire.
I don’t blame Cage for the movie’s failure, though he does nothing to help the film, either. Cage seems to be on total cruise control in Runner, as he manages to bring no heart or personality to Pryce. Cage mostly seems like he suffers from a bad case of heartburn, which means he fails to create an interesting, compelling character.
Even if Cage delivered an excellent performance, though, Runner would flop due to its lack of coherence. The film never seems too sure where it wants to go. Is it a green energy manifesto/attack on corporate misdeeds? A sexy melodrama? A political thriller? An uplifting look at renewed love in middle age? Yes and no - Runner toys with all these themes but it fails to present a clear narrative that makes any of these trends come to life.
Instead, Runner meanders from one plot point to another without anything to make it interesting. Amateurish, slow and pointless, the movie fails.