Runner Runner

RUNNER RUNNER. Starring Ben Affleck, Justine Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, David Costabile, Diana Laura, Jeannine Kaspar. Directed by Brad Furman. 91 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (strong coarse language and sex scene).

This is one of those thrillers which might have sounded well worthwhile on paper but that somehow doesn’t quite deliver on screen.

While the setting is gambling, casinos, and the gambling culture in the US and in Costa Rica, it is once again the story of the young man, ambitious, who overestimates his capacities and becomes the victim of someone he admires and then discovers is devious and an exploiter. Memories of such stories as the Grisham’s The Firm.

This time the young man is played by Justin Timberlake, a student who has a father with gambling addiction, who organizes online play at his college campus. Warned by the head of the college, he decides to go to Costa Rica to meet the man whom he considers the top of online and international gambling. He is played with suitable aplomb and ever-growing sinister behaviour by Ben Affleck. Also in the picture is Gemma Arteton who does become involved in the plot but seems to be there more for conventional decoration, and she doesn’t give a very lively or credible performance.

Anthony Mackie appears as one of the more ruthless FBI agents on screen in recent times, relentless in his pressuring of American young men who become involved with the boss and gambling types, who would be arrested as soon as they set foot on American Territory. Also in the mix is John Heard as the hero’s father, being set up to pressurize his son to do whatever the boss asks.

Our hero learns the way of the world in being smart and outsmarting opponents. Having been bashed, he then calls on the help of those who were his opponents but now want the opportunity to get back on the boss.

There are some dramatic moments at the end of the film, reinforcing the cleverness of the hero, especially in his outwitting the boss.

Just OK and watchable while it as on the screen, then out of mind and memory.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

20th Century Fox.
Out September 26, 2013.

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