Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Michael Esper, Oliver Cooper, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, John Heard, James Molina, Louis Lombardi
Written by: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Directed by: Brad Furman
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 91
Date: 10/04/2013
IMDB

Runner Runner (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Fold

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Brad Furman's previous movie, The Lincoln Lawyer, took what could have been a generic Hollywood thriller and turned it into something good, a movie that didn't pander or dumb itself down, and focused on good characters. Unfortunately, Furman's Runner Runner is an actual generic Hollywood thriller that has dumbed itself down and forgets about characters.

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a promising graduate student at Princeton, but his job as an affiliate for a gambling site gets him in trouble. He decides to gamble his life savings in online poker to win the rest of his tuition money. He loses, but discovers that he was cheated, so he flies to Puerto Rico to meet the reclusive creator of the site, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).

Ivan is apparently so impressed with Richie's skills that he hires him as a new right-hand man. Richie grows wealthy and meets the beautiful Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton), who also works for Ivan. But trouble begins when the FBI noses in, the local gambling czar demands more money, and Richie figures out that he's the fall guy.

The screenplay invents situations and then forgets about them, such as making Ivan Block mysterious and elusive, and then making him totally available later, when the plot requires it. Or, Richie and Rebecca's relationship is dangerous at first, but the movie diffuses it, turning it into nothing.

Coincidences -- such as a very convenient gambling expo taking place -- substitute for twists, and dumb action scenes are sloppily inserted. None of these actors can make anything out of what they're given, not even the talented Anthony Mackie as the FBI guy. Somebody took a gamble on this thin material and lost.

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