I was sorely tempted to write a single word review of Runner Runner:
But I'll resist and expand slightly.
The trailer strongly suggests an intelligent, exciting thriller of crime and intrigue with A-list stars, action, drama, plenty of danger and a soupçon of violence. The realty of Runner Runner is somewhat blander.
Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a Princeton student with moderate financial worries, who supports himself through online gambling. When he risks everything (except the price of his airline ticket to Costa Rica, clearly) on a game and loses, he discovers he has been swindled and heads south to confront the man behind the poker company and scam, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Block is so impressed with Furst's balls that he offers him a job with eight-figure returns. With the chance to join the super rich, all the pleasures it encompasses and, predictably, a beautiful woman, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), who equally predictably is Block's girlfriend, Furst's life couldn't be any better. Then FBI agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) interferes.
The ingredients are there but it just doesn't work. The characters are half-written shadows of people about whom we don't care. There is no depth, detail or intrigue to inspire us to invest our attention and, though we try to second guess the plot and look for the twists and double crosses lurking in the background, it transpires there are none to speak of and what we see is the sum total of it.
Timberlake is on something of a downward trajectory after the superb The Social Network. Neither Bad Teacher nor Trouble with the Curve ignited and his turn in Runner Runner, though adequate, does nothing to persuade us he's an A-lister in Hollywoodland.
Affleck, however, was ridding high with the supreme success of Argo and the promise of more box office clout with the forthcoming Gone Girl and Batman vs. Superman. Runner Runner isn't going to damage his career but it certainly isn't going to boost it.
Meanwhile, there are times when Gemma Arterton frequently forgets to act (and can't pronounce Antigua) and Mackie is lumbered with a role that diminishes even the 'heights' of Pain and Gain.
Somebody really needs to shake director Brad Furman, turn him around and point him in the direction of a sequel to his fine The Lincoln Lawyer.
Runner Runner isn't a bad film. It's just a bland, boring, forgettable, dull thud with no echo.
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Action / Crime / Thriller
Action / Crime / Thriller
Richie Furst used to have a lucrative career on Wall Street; this history prevents him from receiving tuition assistance at Princeton, so he funds his master's degree by referring students to online gambling, for which he receives a cut. After the dean threatens to expel him for these activities, Richie tries to win his tuition using his excellent poker skills in online gambling, but he loses all his money to a cheater, something he is able to prove by statistics.Richie goes to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block, who runs the biggest empire of online gambling websites in the world, including the one Richie lost his money on. After Ivan sees the statistics, he finds coders have coded the software to allow them to cheat. After firing those involved, Ivan tells Richie he'll pay him millions per year for him to assist with the site work. Richie slowly begins a romantic relationship with Rebecca Shafran, Ivan's ex-lover, and Ivan displays no objections to this. FBI agent Shavers kidnaps Richie and threatens to ruin his life in various ways if he does not assist in a conviction of Ivan Block. Shavers cannot do anything legally as he has no authority in Costa Rica, but he takes advantage of this to use tactics that would be illegal/unethical for law enforcement inside the United States. Ivan tells Richie that everyone in the organization ends up confronted by Shavers at some point. Ivan has Richie blackmail Shecky, a gaming affiliate with videos of his infidelity to force him to sign with Ivan.Over time, Ivan's organization is revealed to be less than ethical. He sends Richie to bribe Costa Rica gaming director Herrera with too small a payment, which leads to Richie being beaten. Ivan tells him it comes with the territory of such a wealthy career. Ivan throws Herrera and his bodyguard into a lake of crocodiles, but pulls them out before they are eaten. Richie's friend Andrew Cronin, who works on the software design for Ivan, finds that Ivan is running a Ponzi scheme; the players' accounts have no actual money, and Ivan uses the money as his own bank account, keeping just enough to allow players to cash out when they need to. Cronin disappears and is later found nearly beaten to death. Fearing Richie might be having a change of heart, Ivan buys the massive poker debts of Richie's father and brings him to Costa Rica, using him as a hostage against Richie.When Richie tries to leave the country, Shavers has drugs planted in his bag and offers to overlook it if Richie agrees to cooperate. A local police officer reveals that the police dislike Ivan but that he would buy his way out of any trouble and destroy whoever tried to take him down. Thanks to Rebecca betraying Ivan, Richie finds out that Ivan has been swindling him all along; Ivan is about to move his operations out of Costa Rica, and from the start he wanted to leave Richie behind as the fall guy. Richie gives out massive bribes to all local officials, including low-level police officers. When the movement day hits, Ivan calls to satirically apologize to Richie, telling him he'll be arrested, as Ivan flies away on a private jet.When Ivan lands, he finds he has been betrayed: the bribed pilot has instead flown him to Puerto Rico, American territory. Shavers arrests him as Richie and Rebecca fly away on the private jet. Shavers says they're free to go because Richie left a flash drive with him containing sufficient evidence to convict Ivan.
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December 21, 2013 at 01:43 AM