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Film Review: 'Runner Runner'

Rex Lindeman |
October 5, 2013 | 8:45 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Kingpin Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) talks with Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) about the rules of the trade (20th Century Fox).
Kingpin Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) talks with Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) about the rules of the trade (20th Century Fox).
Hot off the Hollywood press, director Brad Furman delivers his newest film, "Runner Runner." Even though two big stars headline the movie, this film ultimately fails to move the audience in any sort of way.

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a Princeton student who funds his tuition via online gambling. The dean at Princeton condemns Furst's advertising of a gambling website to students and orders him to stop or be expelled.

Flustered, Furst gambles away all his savings to a mysterious online player that beats him at a statistically impossible rate. Believing he was swindled, Furst travels to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the website owner and a wealthy kingpin. Impressed by his wit, Black offers Furst an eight-figure job in the dangerous and nearly lawless business of online gambling.

READ MORE: Film Review: 'Gravity'

This is the perfect action movie setup, featuring a lifestyle of huge parties, endless drinks, and beautiful women. Unfortunately, the film lacks everything else - most importantly, a good script. Conflict, climax, resolution, and the three-act structure are all there, but the characters are written without passion or feeling, making them superficial and unwillingly pushing the audience to apathy.

As a fine actor, Ben Affleck does a passable job in his role, which makes him the movie's apex. Yet the script is so weak that even his acting can't salvage it. On the other hand, Timberlake's artificial and choreographed performance looks as if he reads the script verbatim. Not once does he creatively improvise. In a new role where I hoped Timberlake would expand on his acting talent briefly seen in "The Social Network" (2010), he fails to bring it. Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton), a "business partner" of Block, is superficial and motivated only by the idea of spending her life with a reasonable man. She is the mens' squeeze and nothing more.

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The film is saturated with product placement, and does so most humorously when Timberlake makes a glaringly obvious effort to turn the label of his Bud Light to face the camera. The film's sparse action sequences and their respective setups fail to excite us. Suddenly, "Runner Runner" feels like an extremely well-financed high school student film. It has a slim chance to please your average Justin Timberlake fan, but everyone else can safely pass on seeing this one.

Justin, you're a talented dude, and I respect that. Just pick your next movie a little more carefully.

Watch the trailer for “Runner Runner” below.

Reach Staff Reporter Rex Lindeman here. Follow him on Twitter.



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