The Runner (2015)
“Power always comes at a price”
The Runner (2015)
Director: Austin Stark
Cast: Sarah Paulson, Nicolas Cage, Connie Nielsen
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the 2010 BP oil spill, an idealistic but flawed politician is forced to confront his dysfunctional life after his career is destroyed in a sex scandal.
Following his spectacular fall from financial grace a few years back, Nicolas Cage (Kick Ass) will pretty much accept any work that’s offered to him, which means the viewing of one of his later movies is generally to be approached with trepidation. Cage has made more than his fair share of duds over the past five years or so, and his lacklustre performances too often reflect his own low opinion of the movie he’s making. While Austin Stark’s The Runner is of a higher standard than much of Cage’s recent output, and Cage at least looks to be making an effort, it’s still a rather pedestrian tilt at an over-familiar story.
The dual nature of The Runner’s plot – the personal crises suffered by an idealistic politician in the midst of his crusade against a faceless corporation intent on evading its financial and ecological responsibilities – parallels the split personality of the man himself. An impassioned plea by Louisiana politician Colin Pryce (Cage) on behalf of fishermen still awaiting compensation for the devastating effects an oil spill had on their livelihoods creates a big enough stir for his advisers to start talking of a shot at the Senate. But, while Pryce is a highly principled and effective politician, he’s also a philanderer, and no sooner has his star begun to rise than it is shot from the skies by some grainy CCTV footage of him groping his black mistress (and the wife of one of the fishermen he represents) which goes viral on the internet.
The scandal sends both Pryce’s life and career into a seemingly irreversible tailspin. Suddenly, those advisers pushing for a crack at the Senate are metaphorically whistling at the sky with their hands in the pockets while Pryce looks for a new place to live after being ejected from their mansion by his ambitious wife (Connie Nielsen – Gladiator), whose anger at her husband’s infidelity is equalled only by her vexation over the damage it has done to his career. Pryce is a reformed alcoholic, and while he continues to pursue BP on behalf of the Louisiana fishermen during the day, he begins drinking heavily at night, despite seeing the damage that booze has wrought upon his father (Peter Fonda – Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma), who was once himself a prominent local politician. Only staff member Kate Haber (Sarah Paulson) offers a Pryce a shoulder to cry on – but will this be enough to enable Pryce to turn his life around?
Producer Austin Stark’s first shot at writing and directing a feature proves to be a curiously sterile experience. Cage shows a refreshingly strong level of commitment to the part of Pryce, but is let down by a sluggish plot which shows little desire to get to grips with either the political wrangling surrounding the distribution of funds to the fishermen or the demons which hound Pryce. And Cage’s unique screen persona – which is considerably toned down for The Runner – has no hope of enlivening a character so lacking in charisma or charm. Pryce is neither interesting or likeable, and because his flaws are so closely examined, the path he ultimately chooses comes as no particular surprise or tragedy. We all understand on some level that life is a series of compromises, so why Stark considers it to be such a revelation for Colin Pryce is something of a mystery.
(Reviewed 15th February 2016)