The Nic Cage Jukebox 5: The Runner (2015 – Austin Stark)

Each week, one randomly selected film from Nicolas Cage’s career.  Hopefully we can begin to figure out exactly what he’s been up to all these years.


The problem with Nic Cage is sifting through the garbage.  Not the actual films – for the most part, they actually seem pretty worthwhile – but sifting through the nonsense and caricatures and memes that surround this man’s career by this stage.  The opinion of him seems more prevalent than the reality of him; lightweight films, with nonsensical plots and exaggerated performances from our man Nic… usually featuring an appalling hairpiece.

But the reality is quite different.  Cage is fairly dedicated actor, who performs his roles with a level of realism.  The world acted surprised when Cage starred in Joe (2013 – David Gordon Green); many commented that this was a strangely naturalistic performance from Cage.  But delve a little deeper into the man’s career and you will see that this is a fairly common choice of performance he makes.  The stereotyped expectation seems to stem from the Bruckheimer films he has appeared in, performances that catapulted him into stardom.

He isn’t helped by the way that he is marketed.  Look at the DVD cover for The Runner:


It gives the impression of a possible action movie, and failing that, a thriller.  There are explosions and a mean looking Cage walking determinedly towards the camera.  What is he looking at?  Some possible danger about to strike.

But The Runner isn’t even a thriller.  It’s a small-scale drama about a politician trying to rebuild his life after a fairly grotty sex-scandal.  It features an affecting, quite naturalistic central performance from Cage and typically strong supporting work from Sarah Paulson, Connie Nielsen and Peter Fonda.  It obviously brought a decent amount of work to the film industry of New Orleans (there’s a small article to be written about films set there since the implementation of tax breaks following Hurricane Katrina).  And it’s really quite good.  Cage is quite brilliant as a man trying to qualify his dignity; it doesn’t matter how old we are, we’re all still trying to figure out who we are, and cage embodies this struggle exceptionally well.

So how on Earth are we going to be able to get to the truth of Nic Cage when even the films he is in market him in such a misleading manner.  This is a very strong film about the events of the BP oil spill of 2010; one that is comfortable situated between the action adventure of Deepwater Horizon (2016 – Peter Berg) and the sanctimonious moralising Aaron Sorkin in the misbegotten first season of The Newsroom.  I feel that ‘under-appreciated’ is a term that will become pedestrian because it is so often applied to Cage, but it feels so appropriate here.  The Runner is a really terrific little film.

Nicolas Cage Jukebox rankings:


  1. Lord of War
  2. The Runner
  3. Rumble Fish
  4. Windtalkers
  5. Pay the Ghost

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