Runner Runner

Often the most interesting aspect of your typical glam-crime flick is the presentation of what the director, producers and writers believe is the ultimate ‘in your dreams’ lifestyle.

It can be so insightful as to how far crass consumerism continues to drag us unopposed towards greed’s barren horizon.

The average heterosexual bloke wouldn’t kick Gemma Arterton out of bed, there’s no risk about that, so the trophy girl in this is fine, but the flash cars and boats, mansions and nocturnal casino-crawling indulged in by super-cool honcho Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) and coveted by wannabe Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) in Runner Runner look a bit too much like a dredged-up Peter Stuyvesant ad – and for a non-smoker, that’s just a big yawn.

Block runs a global online gambling outfit from his billionaire’s compound in Costa Rica – stubbled and handsome, ruthless but still amiable after saving everybody’s life in Argo, he’s like Tom Waterhouse with cojones.

Richie, unable to pay his Princeton fees, is drawn into winning a fortune through playing poker with his laptop (the mountains of money lost by fools doing this is staggering). After being cheated on Block’s site, he flies to the banana republic, fronts the Man and, instead of being kneecapped and told to go back to acting school, he is taken on as a protégé.

Block has two pressing problems – corrupt Costa Rican authorities are demanding ever-increasing amounts in bribery from him, while Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) is scheming behind the scenes to somehow get Block into a jurisdiction where the FBI might be able to arrest him.

The script is tight and Mauro Fiore’s high-contrast cinematography helps create an atmosphere of sharp tension. Affleck is great, but Timberlake will have more gravitas when his voice breaks and Arterton is nowhere near as appealing as when wearing her cardigan in Song For Marion.

It’s an absorbing if soulless movie, made with flawless professionalism. I enjoyed it, but only a complete dunce would not know who is going to out-manoeuvre whom.

~ John Campbell


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