Runner Runner

Runner Runner
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Director: Brad Furman
Cert: 15A
Genre: Crime
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie
Running Time: 1 hr 31 mins

What we have here is an updating of Wall Street set in the world of online gambling. The consistently impressive Justin Timberlake – always at his best in Ivy League button-downs – takes on the Charlie Sheen role as a Princeton student who, suspecting that a poker site is corrupt, flies to Costa Rica to confront the owner. There he meets the new film's Gordon Gekko in the underpowered form of Ben Affleck.

You know how the plot goes. The evil mastermind takes the kid under his wing. At first, the allure of glamour and decadence proves intoxicating, but the demands of Hollywood morality impose and a falling out takes place. It all ends unhappily for some and happily for others.

The set-up is not at all bad. We are offered tantalising glimpses into the mechanisms that drive the online gambling world. Timberlake bosses the screen with his likable easygoing swagger. Unfortunately, glimpses are all we get and the rest of the cast is not so impressive.

Film-makers have constantly had difficulty making computers look interesting, but The Social Network (which also featured Justin, of course) proved the task was achievable. Sadly, having given us those few tasters, the director and writers give up and abandon us to a soggy mess of uninteresting gangland disputes. Affleck can do blokey bonhomie, but, with best will in the world, he has never convinced as a Machiavellian genius.


Then we have the continuing problem that is Gemma Arterton. As the love interest juggled between godfather and rookie, Arterton – though a good actor and possessed of charisma – again demonstrates that the spirit of a vanished era in British cinema still hangs around her shoulders.

All end-of-the-pier jollity, Gemma would seem much more at home grimacing at a Kenneth Williams double entendre. Who can explain it?

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist