blog Crime Documentary Review

Documentary Review | Running with the Devil

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.
Run Time: 105 minutes
Release Year: 2022
Platform: Netflix
Directed by: Charlie Russell

The word crazy does not even start to describe Charlie Russell’s documentary about the eccentric tech billionaire John McAfee. Two minutes into it and you realize that Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee is not your garden-variety documentary.

Running with the Devil poster - John Mcafee

It’s a frantic footage-style meta feature that covers McAfee’s perilous life from 2012 until his mysterious death in 2021.

Armed with a hired camera crew of Rocco Castoro (editor) and Robert King (cameraman) from VICE and his barely legal girlfriend, McAfee set in motion an audacious escape plan from Belize to Guatemala.

On the run for the alleged murder of his neighbor, McAfee strikes you as both paranoid and irrational from the get-go. He tells the camera that people were out to get him and that he was a sitting duck in Belize.

McAfee brought the first anti-virus software to the world. He became a multimillionaire when his company went public in 1992. Two years later, he left saying that he wanted out before things got too corporate.

Once he departed the company, his life went wayward. All his new ventures tanked and he started hogging the limelight more for his philandering lifestyle than anything else.

When Intel expunged his name from the anti-virus to sell it under Intel Security, he famously remarked, “I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet.”

In 2008, he flew to the central American country of Belize to set up a herb-based antibiotics business. Four years later, he was fleeing the country on the pretext of false murder charges and a high-level government conspiracy to hunt him down. Even though he escaped to neighboring Guatemala and used his money to bribe officials, he remained worried about his safety.

Until this point, I, as the viewer, was finding it hard to decipher what exactly was haunting McAfee. He claimed for a long time that he had collected sensitive information about many powerful people and those people wanted him dead. But neither McAfee nor the director is able to convince the viewer. And, then comes this jaw-dropping footage in the documentary where armed guards surrounded him and his crew outside a hotel in Guatemala.

Any ordinary human will piss his pants in such a situation, but McAfee was made of a different constitution. He asks one of the guards for a cigarette and then walks over to a roadside peddler selling flutes and starts playing the flute even as sub-machine guns bear down on him. Incredible!

“People say I remind them of the Joker. Possibly, the Joker is the best description of me. I mean, the motherf***r didn’t give a sh*t, did he? Do you think I give a sh*t. No, people, I do not.”

John McAfee

In my opinion, not only was he unabashed, narcissistic and scatterbrained at times, but he was also an unceasing optimist…even when there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

Running with the Devil on Netflix

Running with the Devil is split into two parts – the first 45 minutes cover his escape from Belize to Guatemala and from Guatemala to the US. The remaining 60 minutes intersperse footage with commentaries from Alex Cody Foster (McAfee’s ghostwriter), McAfee’s cousin, and the cameraman Robert King.

Foster, whose The Man Who Hacked the World – a biography about McAfee is about to hit the bookstores, delivers a chilling assertion:

“He was the most expertly manipulative person I had ever met. And he wanted to control the narratives. You really don’t know what is truth and what is fiction.”

Towards the end, King underlines a doubt that the viewer is constantly having – that in all probability, drugs had f***d up McAfee’s mind badly.

That the US government and the Sinaloa cartel were hell-bent on terminating him was nothing but his hallucination. Now were those hallucinations a symptom of a larger malaise or were they just a self-created mental ruse to hide his wrongdoings? We may never know the answer.

In June 2021, John McAfee died in a Spanish prison the night after the Spanish courts ordered him to have him extradited to the US. If his life was a mystery, so was his death. Authorities claimed that he committed suicide, but if, like me, you have watched this documentary, you’d say ‘Hell, no! Not possible’.

During the last few documented shots with Robert King who was starting to lose his own mind, McAfee tells him in a charged conversation, “I will fabricate whatever reality I see fit to keep eyeballs on us…If this one does not sell your f***g footage, nothing will, Robert. I have created this story. I have fabricated a perception that is matched with reality.”

Maybe, his death was also a part of his narrative.

©BookJelly. All rights reserved

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: