McAfee is introduced with his much-younger girlfriend Sam (who is interviewed later), before the narrative abandons that part of the story about halfway through, picking up with McAfee again about five years later, in 2019, as he lurches from one crisis to the next.
Russell clearly wants to use the grainy footage and up-close-and-personal exposure to McAfee’s ramblings to replicate a sense of the man himself, but there’s only so far that can go without weaving more useful context into the mix. Instead, “Running With the Devil” detours to tell the stories of those who followed McAfee around, which adds little to the larger plot beyond providing a temporary respite from McAfee’s lunacy.
In the latter part of the film, the roster of sort-of narrators expands to include Alex Cody Foster, a self-described ghostwriter who hung out with McAfee and recorded extensive interviews with him.
“Maybe he was a murderer, but I just love good stories,” Foster says.
McAfee was clearly many things, and yes, a murderer might have been one of them. “Running With the Devil” can be forgiven for opting not to bother bogging down a juicy yarn by wrestling with the morality of the man, but as presented, it’s simply too much of a mess to even qualify as a good story.
“Running With the Devil: The World of John McAfee” premieres Aug. 24 on Netflix.