RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL
(US - 2019)
As you can see, everyone gets a title in lieu of a character name, an annoying quirk that seems more at home in a '90s post-Tarantino crime flick than it does in an ostensibly serious movie. There's also The Man (Laurence Fishburne), a sleazy, drug-addled, sex-addicted middleman who spends most of his time getting high with hookers (Fishburne gets possibly the least-dignified intro of his career, The Man first seen maniacally jerking off in a porn parlor peep show booth); The Snitch (Adam Goldberg), who gets busted snorting coke outside a hospital where he's about to dump off two dead hookers who OD'd on The Man's merchandise, and ends up an informant after being tortured by The Agent in Charge; Number One (Peter Facinelli), a DEA associate of The Agent; and The Farmer (Clifton Collins Jr), who's seen periodically in some Colombia-set scenes but his exact purpose in the narrative isn't really explained. It's Fishburne who gets the most screen time, giving RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL more than he can possibly get from it in return, rendering his efforts all for naught. I would understand it if this was like Cage's recent A SCORE TO SETTLE, which gave him Benjamin Bratt among the cast of relative nobodies (along with an amazing "BEEF?!" meltdown), but here we have another Cage clunker that's somehow packed with established actors of various standing for no reason at all. Cage stopped caring a long time ago and seems to be content lucking into a JOE or a MANDY every couple of years (or Richard Stanley's upcoming and much-anticipated THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE). By now, we expect Cage to be in something like this, but why the overqualified supporting cast? Never mind being unworthy of Laurence Fishburne. RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL isn't even worth Cole Hauser's time. (R, 100 mins)
(US - 2019)
SURVIVE! if you're a more old-school exploitation fan) would be a good idea for anything other than an SNL skit that mercifully got cut for time. And rest assured, the barely-released satirical workplace cannibal comedy CORPORATE ANIMALS is every bit as abysmal as it sounds. There's a few admittedly witty one-liners that land ("You fucked my lunch?!"), but CORPORATE ANIMALS, directed by Patrick Brice and written by Sam Bain, both part of the Duplass Brothers inner circle, offers little beyond the obvious metaphorical implications of ambitious employees going to extreme measures to survive, whether it's in the office or being trapped in a cave-in while on an ill-advised spelunking excursion as a team building exercise. The trip was organized by Incredible Edible Cutlery's scheming, bitch-on-wheels CEO Lucy Vanderton (Demi Moore), but an impromptu change in plans where she badgers guide Brandon (co-producer Ed Helms, showing up long enough to remind you of THE OFFICE) into taking her staff on the "experienced" route, which soon proves disastrous when an earthquake causes a cave-in that crushes Brandon to death (exit Ed Helms at the 17-minute mark). With little water and nothing to eat other than a sample package of Incredible Edible Cutlery, tensions flare after a few days when the starving survivors--among them marketing head and Lucy's "Beyonce of Business" Jess (former DAILY SHOW correspondent Jessica Williams) and her chief rival and Lucy's former intern/boytoy Freddie the Fucktoy (DEADPOOL's Karan Soni)--decide to eat Brandon in order to survive (and discover that Lucy already helped herself to his arm while everyone else was asleep). Other than some scattered shots of flesh-munching, the film is skittish about venturing too far into the grossout realm, with most of the time spent with the characters arguing about office and personal grievances in almost total darkness, with the end result so tedious that it's hard to believe it's only been 80 minutes when the closing credits finally start rolling.
The cast is filled with funny and talented people--SNL vet Nasim Pedrad, Dan Bakkedahl cast radically against type as "Dan Bakkedahl," and the great Isiah Whitlock, Jr--but they aren't well utilized. Moore's inspired casting results in her getting some of the better lines ("Nut up and put that pussy into it!" she tells a terrified Pedrad as she descends into the cave, and later yelling "Your panic attack is not authorized!") and Freddie's weird obsession with Gary Sinise--even having a picture of him in his wallet--is a running gag that belongs in a better movie, but CORPORATE ANIMALS doesn't have anything beyond the cannibalism motif, and it doesn't even spend much time on it, instead exploring other avenues for "shock" comedy, like Harvey Weinstein jokes, full-frontal Bakkedahl, or Moore talking about rimjobs. You know your comedy is a lost cause when Isiah Whitlock Jr is in it and you don't even have him drop his signature line. Also with voice cameos by Britney Spears and members of the B-52s, for some reason. (R, 86 mins)