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FILM FANS: 'Runner Runner' has potential, maybe for TV

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Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck star in "Runner Runner." (Special Photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: “Runner Runner.” Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

4 out of 4 stars

What if this chance was your last chance to make it into the world of the super-rich? How far would you go? Who and what would you be willing to destroy? What is most important to you: money, fame, sex, country, kinship or friendship? How do chicken fat, Cuban cigars and the Costa Rican Gaming Commissioner fit into your plans?

Don’t miss this battle between a true villain and a guy whose greed pushes him to his limits. “Runner, Runner” will have you holding your breath and questioning your own limits.

— Deborah Guy, Bethelehem

2 out of 4 stars

“Runner Runner” features Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst, a Princeton student working on his master’s degree who is a whiz at gambling tactics. Richie is financing his college education by steering gamblers to certain online betting sites. He’s about to get bounced from Princeton for ethics violations when he doubles down his entire savings on a can’t-miss online poker game — and loses it all. Richie heads to Costa Rica, bent on sticking it to the kingpin of this Internet gambling empire, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Richie figures the way to bring Block down is by cozying up to him and becoming his right hand man. Soon, Richie is in over his head not only with Ivan and his thugs, but also with corrupt local cops and an FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) who’s hot on Block’s trail.

Timberlake does a good job here, displaying a range of emotions from cocksure and brazen to angry and bewildered. The scenes with John Heard playing Richie’s washed-up gambler dad are rather poignant. However, Affleck is stiff in his portrayal of Block, but is anybody surprised at that? Gemma Arterton is wasted as Block’s eye-candy assistant and has no chemistry with either Affleck or Timberlake. And if you aren’t familiar with gambling terminology and tactics, a good bit of the dialog in the film will be incomprehensible.

Overall, “Runner Runner” is an OK flick that doesn’t exactly sprint out of the blocks. It felt more like a made-for-TV movie than a big-screen production, and the ending is totally predictable. I recommend you hedge your bets on this one and wait for it to come out on Netflix or Redbox.

— Tim Weekley, Suwanee

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

Having seen the previews and finding “Runner Runner” premise interesting, I spent Friday evening watching this Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck flick. Enjoyed the fast crime drama and dark expose of the online gambling world and the characters populating it. Everyone is probably familiar with the Las Vegas style gambling being sold as a fashionable destination, but few dare explore the underside of the “appearance” game. This film does that.

Timberlake’s character’s naivete and young turk-ness endears you at the beginning scenes as the movie moves from New Jersey into a Costa Rican (but filmed in Puerto Rico) paradise we all can only dream about. Then the movie goes south. I mean dark south as the crime world of the underside of gambling starts enveloping Justin’s character. The scenes with the crocodiles remind me of the “Thunderball” scenes with the shark pool — but enough said about how it rolls. Realizing our story hero is going to a place he didn’t want to go, he tries to escape it all.

Without spoiling his antics, the movie is watchable and a good upcoming DVD rental. Just OK but better than previous movies I’ve been reviewing lately (code — watching it wasn’t a chore like the others). Probably would wait for it to come out on dvd.

— Alfred Richner, Duluth