Runner Runner (R) Even with its goofy concept, sinking into the murky depths of the world of Internet poker, Runner Runner is a solid thriller with a good cast. It’s also a movie I will forget I ever watched six months from now. Runner Runner wants to be taut and violent and sexy and clever, but only rarely even flirts with any of these. What’s left is a film that’s watchable — and in the doldrums of autumn moviegoing, it’s depressing to admit that this in itself is something of a small victory. Runner Runner is the convoluted story of Richie (Justin Timberlake), a Princeton grad student who once tried to hack it as a Wall Street wunderkind, at least until the economy tanked. These days, Richie’s stuck trying to pay off his tuition with online poker, none too unreasonable since he’s a smart kid with a knack for gambling, as proven by all the jargon he throws out in the film’s lazy narration. Everything’s fine until Richie is cheated by one online site and loses all of his savings. Acting as any reasonable adult would, he flies to Costa Rica to confront the site’s owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) in hopes of getting his money back. Block, impressed by Richie’s chutzpah, does one better and offers Richie a job. Despite Richie’s newfound wealth, it’s obvious that things aren’t on the up-and-up, as Ivan’s bribing the local government and an FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) is hot on his trail, amongst other shady goings-on like blackmail and various acts of coercion. The plot finally kicks in as Richie must use his smarts to get out of this hairy predicament both with his life intact and without ending up in some Costa Rican prison. So what, exactly, is the problem? There’s just not a lot to get excited about. Director Brad Furman does nothing new with the material, which never climbs above the standing of generic thriller. Part of this is the script itself, which never reaches the level of cleverness it needs, but a lot of it is the flaccid direction.
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