Film Review: Runner Runner (20th Century Fox; 2013)

BY PETER MCGORAN

Justin Timberlake – proving once again that he suits the preppy, Ivy League college student character – takes on the role of Richie Furst, a Princeton grad who uses his considerable intellect to make millions in the illegal online gambling business.  Gifted but naïve, he becomes the right-hand man of Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), corrupt owner of the gambling site working out of Costa Rica and ends up vying for the affections of Block’s opulently-bronzed trophy-girlfriend, Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton).

It run-of-the-mill crime drama stuff but a bit smarter, quirkier, and with less pointless gun-battles and explosions, finding itself more at home with dirty dealings and subtle confrontations than all-out fist fights and car chases. The action of the movie is generally handled with aplomb, not over-indulging in excessive revelry (aside from a weird cameo by music producer Deadmau5, shamelessly promoting a few tunes at a Brock house party). The downside of Runner Runner however, is that in spite of all the hoodwinking and double-crossings, it seems to run itself into a relatively anticlimactic conclusion, ending with less gusto than it truly deserves after only 91 minutes.

No matter, however, because overall it may not be the most memorable movie but it’s certainly agreeable to watch. Turning the world of online poker into a fast-paced thriller couldn’t have been easy and points are awarded to director Brad Furman for making Runner Runner so engaging and watchable. Students in the audience will turn a wry smile at the fact that it was crippling university debt which drove Timberlake’s character to crime; everyone else will either grin or grimace at the gambling puns pervading throughout (Affleck’s character gets called “the wizard of odds” on more than one occasion…ha-ha).

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