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.
Nicolas Cage has become such a 'yes' man when it comes to movie roles these days, he's watered down his credentials to the point that his presence alone doesn't get many people to seek out a film. However, lest any of us forget, Cage is a very good performer when he's given the right role, and some of his on-screen appeal is certainly present in 'The Runner', a movie where Cage plays a self-destructive politician struggling – and more often than not, failing – to do the right thing.
Colin Price (Cage) is a Louisiana congressman with a passion for the environment and the well-being of his constituents. When the BP oil spill occurs in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Price makes an impassioned plea for his state and against 'big oil' during a congressional hearing. His statements make all the national newspapers, and those around him see it as the perfect opportunity for the representative to make a run at the U.S. Senate.
But Price has his own personal failings, which come back to haunt him. He's been having an affair with a young cheerleading coach (Ciera Payton) that he hasn't been particularly careful about covering up, and the press gets video of him making out with her in an elevator (which leads to the best – and really the only – joke of the movie, as the newspaper headlines read 'Price Engages in On-Shore Drilling"). The scandal sinks Price's chance at a Senate run and, despite the protests of his wife (Connie Nielsen) not to do so, leads him to retire from his congressional seat.
The rest of the film focuses on Price's attempt to win back the public trust, but what makes this movie different from others of this sort is that Price continues to be a flawed man, still fooling around with other women and losing his sobriety after being on the wagon for over 16 years. There's also a subplot about Price's father (Peter Fonda), who was also a politician in his day and had many of the same flaws that his son has. Of course, the less Colin tries not to be like his father, the more he seems to become exactly like him.
Without giving away the third act, let's just say that Price has the opportunity to return to power, but to do so he'll have to sacrifice most of the few remaining morals he has left as a human being. The movie, from first-time director Austin Stark, wants to be a cautionary tell about the corruption of power, but it ultimately fails to have its lead character learn anything about himself in the process and – for that reason – results in a story that seems to have a missing third act.
It's not hard to see why Cage agreed to play this character, and – despite donning a southern accent that seems to fade in and out and up and down in range throughout – he gives a decent enough performance here, although fans of the actor may be disappointed to hear we get the 'subdued' Cage and not the more popular 'wild and crazy' Cage in terms of acting. I can't quite recommend the movie overall because I feel the story needed a little more fleshed out and audiences given a more definitive conclusion. However, if you're a fan of the actor, this is something you'll probably want to put on your list of future rentals.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Runner' races onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB Blu-ray. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Survivor, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, 'The Iceman', and Good People. The main menu features a video montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A-locked.
'The Runner' appears to have been shot using digital equipment, and while it's a decent enough transfer, I did have some aesthetic issues with the overall presentation. First, like many modern-day movies, the overall color scheme leans toward the teal/blue side of things. However, the other colors give off an almost over-saturated look to them. Reds, and particularly yellows seem too bright and have an unnatural appearance. While the color timing was not to my tastes, the overall detail here is pretty good for a Blu-ray release, and other than a tad of noise creeping into the backgrounds here and there, I noticed no obvious glitches with the presentation.
The main audio track here is a lossless 5.1 TrueHD track that sounds decent enough given what's presented in the movie. There's not a whole lot of action in the title, which means the rear speakers are primarily used to enhance the movie's musical soundtrack and for some ambient noises here and there. Overall, the track serves its purpose, although – to my ears, at least – I felt the soundtrack music was mixed just a tad too strongly when compared to the spoken word in the movie. While the TrueHD audio never quite gives an immersive feel for the listener/viewer, it's free of any noticeable glitches and certainly good enough for this type of film, where most of the scenes are just characters talking to each other, with little in terms of action.
In addition to the 5.1 TrueHD track, a 2.0 Dolby Digital English track is also available. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Despite the fact that Nic Cage seems to say 'yes' to most everything he's offered these days, it's not too difficult to see why the role of a self-destructive politician in 'The Runner' appealed to him. He's not bad in this movie, but the overall storyline isn't all that compelling, nor is the character arc that the film gives him. Even if you're a die-hard Cage fan, this one still falls firmly in the rental category.