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The Runner Blu-ray Review

The Runner (2015) movie poster The Runner

Theatrical Release: August 7, 2015 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Austin Stark

Cast: Nicolas Cage (Colin Pryce), Sarah Paulson (Katherine "Kate" Haber), Connie Nielsen (Deborah Pryce), Peter Fonda (Rayne Pryce), Wendell Pierce (Frank Legrand), Dana Gourrier (Daria Walker), Bryan Batt (Mark Lavin), Christopher Berry (Hal Provich), Ciera Payton (Lucy Hall), Frederic Lehne (Senator Tom Owens), James Moses Black (Dr. Haleman), Donna Duplantier (Bernadette Richards)

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For many actresses, movie offers start to dry up when they turn 40. When Nicolas Cage turned 40 in 2004, he scored the biggest hit of his career to date in National Treasure.
Cage, who emerged in the early 1980s and blossomed into a star without even using the birth surname made famous by his uncle (The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola), had enjoyed mainstream leading man status for several years when he won the Best Actor Oscar for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas.

Somehow, the performance as a self-destructive alcoholic in that dark drama paved the way for a Cage renaissance as an action hero. Within the course of thirteen months, Cage had starred in three macho blockbusters: The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. Cage used his growing clout to work with Brian De Palma (Snake Eyes) and Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead), but it was reuniting with Rock and Con Air producer Jerry Bruckheimer that yielded the biggest commercial returns, including Gone in 60 Seconds and National Treasure.

2007 should have been a banner year for Cage. He looked to rebound from the terribly reviewed and commercially flaccid remake The Wicker Man with a Marvel superhero vehicle dear to his heart (Ghost Rider), an appearance in the much-hyped Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez joint Grindhouse, the lead role in a sci-fi action movie from Blade Runner and Minority Report author Philip K. Dick (Next), and a National Treasure sequel. While Christmastime opening National Treasure: Book of Secrets set a new career best for the actor at the box office, the others all disappointed.

Since then, Cage's career has been in utter disarray. His only well-received film of the past five years was DreamWorks Animation's The Croods, hardly something succeeding on his involvement. Everything else, from the Ghost Rider sequel nobody wanted to the acclaimed David Gordon Green rural indie Joe to the Rapture remake Left Behind, has faltered at the box office and done little to restore the luster he held through 2007.

Nowadays, Cage's new movies struggle to reach theaters at all. Those that do rarely secure more than a couple of hundred screens. Cage is not taking his lumps sitting down. He continues to work a lot, with IMDb assigning him nine upcoming credits of varying veracity. One of those (National Treasure 3) looks like wishful thinking, while most of the others seem destined for obscurity should they ever materialize. I can think of no other actor as desperately in need of the kind of revival that Quentin Tarantino gave John Travolta back in 1994. Cage might be beyond redemption, though. His recent slate of essentially direct-to-video movies puts him in the ranks of people like Dolph Lundgren and Larry the Cable Guy.

Nicolas Cage stars as Louisiana congressman Colin Pryce in "The Runner", news that should produce on you a face like this.

The Runner, Cage's only movie of 2015 thus far, is his latest project to languish in super limited release without so much as opening a box office record. Like most of Cage's recent films, this drama is set in New Orleans, where the actor recently purchased a 9-foot stone pyramid mausoleum should the talk of his vampiric immortality be only hearsay.

Cage plays Colin Pryce, a Louisiana congressman who takes a strong stance of condemnation in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill. Seeing the pain it inflicts on local shrimpers, Pryce bemoans everything about the incident and gets some national headlines in the process. The Democratic representative sees his heightened profile as a potential springboard for the Senate seat he's been meaning to run for. Unfortunately, his political principles are stronger than his personal ones. After he is caught on security camera cheating on his wife/manager (Connie Nielsen) with a fisherman's wife, there are calls for his resignation. These intensify, eventually driving Pryce to resign from Congress. As promised, his wife leaves him following the resignation.

Disgrace does not drive Pryce out of the public eye altogether. He remains committed to his community, running a pro bono, non-profit relief foundation. It is something of a disaster, until BP surprises him with a pledge of $3.5 million. There are strings attached to the donation, however, as Pryce tries to formulate a Senate campaign that can overshadow his blemished track record.

Also, for reasons that are never remotely clear, Pryce starts to fall for his consultant (Sarah Paulson), a 37-year-old mother of young children whose own divorce, like Pryce's, is not yet finalized.

Don't leave Nic Cage hangin', Sal from "Mad Men" (Bryan Batt).

The Runner can only contribute to Cage's losing streak. The feature writing and directing debut of indie producer Austin Stark, this film is a mess. It turns our attention in so many different directions, you struggle to make sense of it. Are Pryce's scruples or lack thereof the focus? His insatiable political ambitions?
That perplexing romance? I have no idea and I just watched the film closely and in full. The wildly uneven production seems to have been written during breaks in filming. The only thing consistent about it is how inconsistent it is. You can't even wrap your head around the movie on a political level. You assume someone making a Hollywood movie would be in favor of going green and exploring alternatives to oil, but Pryce casually changes his position on that topic. Maybe the film is really about compromise.

Sadly, Cage keeps the picture far from "so bad it's good" territory. There is little off-the-wall about his lead performance, even if he's playing a philanderer who breaks sixteen years of sobriety. The dramatic recklessness that gives entertainment value, intended or not, to such misfires as Wicker Man and Ghost Rider is nowhere to be found here. The movie unfolds with a couple of bizarre montages, an inexplicable passage of voiceover, and what is probably the single worst looped line of dialogue I have encountered in a modern film. It is uttered by Peter Fonda, playing our protagonist's alcoholic father, a former mayor whose own career unraveled, a character that comes and goes like Cage's Cajun drawl.

The Runner is one of those movies where money (starting with the estimated $6 million production budget) has been squandered and needs to be recovered, but the cast and crew would benefit from few people seeing it. That's been the movie's reality so far and it seems unlikely to change with Tuesday's DVD and Blu-ray releases from Alchemy.

The Runner Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($19.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though a relatively low budget film, The Runner looks terrific on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture is razor sharp and crystal clear. Complementing the fine visuals, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack satisfies thoroughly as well. There are a few peaks that will make nearby glass rattle, and the elements are always crisp and easy to understand. Plus the score by The Newton Brothers is quite nice, even when it seems to diverge from the film (I don't blame it).

The Runner's theatrical trailer sells the premise with some routine text. A family dinner briefly features in the Blu-ray's menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Runner's unadvertised only extra is its HD trailer (2:07),
which appears in a Previews menu alongside the four SD trailers with which the disc opens, for Survivor, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, The Iceman, and Good People.

The menu loops a standard montage of clips above a narrow listings bar.

The insertless keepcase (Alchemy is not among the studios offering free Digital HD with Blu-ray purchase) is topped by a textured slipcover featuring the same artwork below.

Colin Pryce (Nicolas Cage) stops his run and looks directly into the camera for The Runner's not so powerful closing shot.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's gotten very difficult to defend anything that Nicolas Cage does these days. The actor has plummeted from A-list action star to direct-to-video laughingstock and now the humor of his unselectivity is wearing thin. The Runner is not noticeably better or more noteworthy for his presence. Without one of the bold hairstyles and accents he gives his other work, this politician drama ends up being rather dull, not to mention haphazard. I think even Cage's most loyal fans (assuming they are still out there) would be okay passing on this disappointing movie.

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Related Reviews:
Nicolas Cage: Left Behind Outcast The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans Seeking Justice Stolen Season of the Witch
Nicolas Cage: National Treasure National Treasure: Book of Secrets Ghost Rider Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Con Air
Nicolas Cage: The Sorcerer's Apprentice Kick-Ass Peggy Sue Got Married Next Drive Angry Knowing The Croods G-Force
Sarah Paulson: The Spirit | Connie Nielsen: Rushmore | Wendell Pierce: Selma Elsa & Fred Lay the Favorite
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The Beasts of the Southern Wild The Paperboy Persecuted The Ides of March 3 Sins The Curious Case of Benamin Button

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Reviewed August 23, 2015.



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