Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Runner Runner

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox
It's not that Brad Furman's "Runner Runner" is a bad movie. It's just by-the-numbers and fairly uninspired. It's a movie about taking risks that takes none of its own.

In the film, Justin Timberlake plays Richie, a graduate student at Princeton University who can barely pay off his student loans. We are told he had a previous career on Wall Street, but was then screwed over when his company went belly up.

Richie gets the shaft again after losing all of his money in an online poker game, but he recognizes that he was cheated and, like any of us would naturally do, boards a plane to Costa Rica to track down one Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the mysterious operator of the website who has made millions through online gambling and is persona non grata in the United States.

Block seems to lure Richie into his operation, giving him a high-powered position and feeding his ego. Block is a manipulator and Richie - surprisingly, for a guy who is supposed to be pretty smart - is easily manipulated.

It must be the money that draws Richie in because it's not Block's charisma. Affleck plays the heavy for the first time and while his over-the-top portrayal is often amusing, his character is not as enigmatic as the screenwriters appear to think he is.

Richie is approached by an FBI agent (Anthony Mackie), who wants him to feed information about Block's enterprise. And wouldn't you know that a girl (Gemma Arterton) is involved who may or may not be trustworthy? And then, of course, there's Richie's dad (John Heard), a gambling addict whom Block uses as a bargaining chip at one obvious point. No cliche is left unused.

That's not to say that "Runner Runner" is that bad of a film. There are few surprises, but it handles its material with a certain level of professionalism. If that sells you on seeing it, you might possess a certain risk taking quality that the film itself is lacking.

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