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Running with the Devil provides an unpleasant glimpse at the true John McAfee

The next article discusses the themes explored in the documentary, which include drug abuse, mental health, gun violence and suicide.

Everybody knows, or knew, that guy. Not in your social circle, but known nonetheless; someones older brother, cousin or drinking buddy. Every time they had a captive audience they let you know tales of these exploits when theyre not kicking around suburban Lowestoft. Among puffs of tobacco smoke and the least expensive whiskey available, theyll say they tried to become listed on the army, however the recruitment people told them these were just too brilliant to waste within an infantry unit. Or they’re an off-duty bodyguard who was simply lying low as the Mafia wanted them (dont ask why, shut up). Or they had just signed a contract to displace The Undertaker at The Wrestling and will be jetting off to the united states soon. The intensity of these testimony may, for a short second, sucker you in, but youll soon recognize that this type of person more Walter Mitty than Walter White. Now imagine what that guy would appear to be if theyd been handed $100 million, and youll get yourself a fairly decent pen portrait of John McAfee in his old age.

Running with the Devil: The wild world of John McAfee is really a new documentary, arriving on Netflix on August 24th. It harnesses footage from the lost, unreleased Vice documentary AWAY FROM HOME with John McAfee, along with film McAfee commissioned himself. It attempts to chronicle the life span of the antivirus software pioneer from when he was named as an individual of interest following death of his neighbor Gegory Faull in Belize, to his death in 2021. McAfee would spend his last decade away from home from pursuers, both real and imaginary, become embroiled in a cryptocurrency scam, make an effort to run for all of us president (twice) and loudly declare he refused to cover his taxes, which attracted the eye of the IRS. Arrested in Spain on charges of tax evasion, he died by suicide in his prison cell.

Devil is broken into three rough parts, each told from the perspective of individuals in McAfees orbit at that time. Part one targets then-Vice editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro and legendary photojournalist Robert King, who accompanied McAfee on his escape to Guatemala. Part Two covers McAfees backstory and his relationship with ghostwriter Alex Cody Foster, with whom he sat for some interviews. Part Three shows how McAfee would eventually reconnect with Robert King, and asked him to become his personal biographer as he sailed on his yacht, mostly around SOUTH USA. The footage is interspersed with commentary from McAfees partners, and also Foster, Castoro and King.

Something thats clear from both footage and the contributors is that McAfee was enthusiastic about truth, however, not always as you or I’d understand it. There are many occasions when he fixates upon his legacy, his reputation, his image, his story and how he’d be perceived. Yet the story was malleable, the reality unclear, and his behavior erratic while away from home, he’d purchase a disguise and proudly tell everyone in the store his name, and pose for photographs. McAfees behavior mirrors the cult leader whos gone all-in on the grand deception, both in his usage of charm, and his propensity for violence. More often than once hes pictured or discussed pointing a gun at friends and allies for what feels as though only the pleasure to be a bully, or at the very least to remind everyone who had the energy.

If youre searching for some type of truth, or grand coherent narrative to assist you grasp who John McAfee was, however, you wont obtain it here. Thats not just a criticism of the documentary McAfee loved to hint about who he was without ever saying it aloud, and always muddying their own water. You can find scenes where he implies he could be in charge of the death of both his abusive father and Faull, but to never anyones satisfaction. But its similarly clear that a lot of his bravado disappears when hes confronted with real consequences for his actions. Much is manufactured, too, of his drug abuse, which appears to have supercharged his paranoia and delusional thinking.

Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee. John McAfee in Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

A lot of the footage shot by King is low-res, untreated first-person digital video, although theres little shakycam here. It instantly dates the footage back again to the beginning of the final decade, and sets the scene perfectly given the turn-of-the-millennium anxieties it generates. It works here, too, since it captures the unpleasant stale air in rooms that havent had their windows opened for too much time. Rooms scattered with dirt and loose tobacco flakes, a half-empty whiskey bottle resting on its side close to some bath salts and a loaded handgun. It can help capture the smallness of the person in his decline, especially as he rages against not the dying of the light, but to the worlds seeming indifference. I suppose anyone attempting to dock a yacht in a foreign country with a cadre of automatic weapons and mercenaries up to speed will be greeted with a frosty reception from the neighborhood police. But, for McAfee, its all area of the grand conspiracy the planet has contorted around him, and its own sad. Nevertheless, you cant feel an excessive amount of sympathy for him given the trail of destruction left in his wake, and theres little closure offered for his victims here.

If theres a very important factor I wish the film did better, its helping the audience keep an eye on who, and where, many people are at each point. Im not necessarily a fan of documentaries with hand-holding narrators, but this is actually the type of film that basically needs one to have Wikipedia at hand. Thats not saying its not worth watching, both in the event that you knew of McAfee or if the initial saga had passed you by. But if it lacks something, its enough of a feeling of place and time and energy to help you keep an eye on all the items that McAfee was around, so when.

Its funny, many of my colleagues met with McAfee through the years including this Engadget Show segment back 2013. (In the past, McAfee said he was parodying and leaning directly into his insalubrious reputation while he made his viral videos. The documentary helps it be clear that there is perhaps more truth than he was ready to admit.) Id even walked past McAfee many times at CES, often sitting alone in a sparsely-attended corner of 1 of small show halls. I often wondered easily is going and talk with him, but there is something of the That Guy even though he was ostensibly on his best behavior. I possibly could imagine him clamping his hand on my shoulder, fixing me along with his dark eyes and spinning a brand new bewitching tale of mystery and intrigue, although since it turns out, the reality was probably wilder.

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