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Runner Runner (AF)


Stars: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Oliver Cooper, Ben Schwartz, Michael Esper, David Costabile, Bob Gunton, Sam Palladio

Director: Brad Furman

If you can accept Justin Timberlake as a clever graduate student of America’s distinguished Princeton University who is deep in debt through his addiction to internet gambling then you should not have too much trouble swallowing the story confected by screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien for this competent crime drama.

Down but not out, Timberlake heads for Costa Rica to confront casino tycoon Ben Affleck whom he hold responsible for having swindled him online, only to succumb to the tycoon’s irresistible offer to employ him at the casino and help him (and later his college computer nerd friends) to realise the American dream…

Impressed, Timberlake succeeds under Affleck’s tutelage, joining in in the regular bribery of local officials necessary to keep the casino open and even finds time to fall for his employer’s henchwoman Gemma Arterton (definitely decorative but hardly called upon to act) before his conscience and, more importantly, pressure from FBI agent Anthony Mackie and Affleck’s hold on his gambling addicted father (John Heard), leads Timberlake to deliver Affleck to justice…

Director Brad Furman very sensibly keeps the story moving as fast as possible to disguise the fact that the story frequently flickers between ‘seen-it-all-before’ and “I don’t believe it”. The smart pace works remarkably well in delivering a surprisingly watchable thriller decorated with vivid tropical island and steamy city locations – Puerto Rico plays Costa Rica very commendably – that help to defuse disbelief until after the film has ended.

Affleck, sporting a seven-o’clock shadow, presumably to mark him as the villain of the piece, is competent enough if hardly thrilling as a man who, like a Bond villain, keeps crocodiles handy to dispose of those who displease him. (He’s solid and stolid which hardly bodes that well for his upcoming turn as the Caped Crusader).

Timberlake plays Timberlake with charm and competency, which is absolutely right for an essentially one-dimensional character: his role combines that of catalyst and obvious flawed hero. And Mackie does what is asked of him, which isn’t much. In the final analysis, though, it’s essentially an enjoyable enough two-hander with suspense and action, carefully crafted by Furman for his two leads.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Sep 2013