Movie review of “The Runner”: Nicolas Cage is unfocused as an ambivalent politician who resigns from his office just when his constituents need him most in this dubious political drama. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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Would a Louisiana congressman, feverishly crusading for his desperate constituents in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill, resign from his House seat because of an extramarital affair?

Whether or not you accept that dubious premise (the congressman, in this case, hasn’t misused his office or dragged out the scandal) is key to the success of the political drama “The Runner.”

Nicolas Cage plays Colin Price, troubled and alcoholic scion of a popular former mayor (Peter Fonda) of New Orleans, and one-half of a power couple with his attorney wife (Connie Nielsen).

Movie Review ★★  

‘The Runner,’ with Nicolas Cage, Connie Nielsen, Sarah Paulson, Peter Fonda, Wendell Pierce, Bryan Batt, Frederic Lehne. Written and directed by Austin Stark. 94 minutes. Rated R for language, nudity. Varsity.

No populist prince, natural dealmaker or Teflon politician to whom nothing bad sticks, Colin largely seems lost in a world of back-scratching and carefully groomed image. Given those limitations, it’s easier to buy that resignation as an indicator of Colin’s lack of imagination, murky ambition and poor survival instincts.

Writer-director Austin Stark puts post-abdication Colin on a twisted path of simultaneous self-destruction and career rehabilitation. Along the way in this dreary-looking feature (even exterior shots of New Orleans streets are a bore), Colin also grasps at unlikely opportunities for personal salvation. He comes away not only disappointed, but also susceptible to the machinations of powerful interests.

Cage’s performance is as fuzzy as his character’s sense of bearings. It’s easy to empathize with Colin as a man who lets political legacy and his smarter wife’s influence define a destiny for which he wasn’t ready. But watching him bump into the walls looking for a purpose isn’t compelling viewing, and Cage can’t do much with the part.

The film’s strengths are in the supporting roles, including Nielsen, Sarah Paulson as a vulnerable press officer, Frederic Lehne as a fisherman who keeps faith in Colin, and especially Fonda as an embittered legend, rebuffing even a morsel of love in “The Runner’s” best scene.