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Review: While outcome is rigged, 'Runner Runner' still delivers decent returns

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While audiences won't likely be running to the new gambling-themed crime drama "Runner Runner," an appealing cast and an interesting subject matter should be enough to hold movie fans' attention for the film's brisk 89-minute run time.

Justin Timberlake stars as Richie Furst, a former Wall Street star-on-the-rise who lost everything in the stock market crash. Trying to pick up the pieces as a student at Princeton University, Furst, an intuitive moneyman who earns his cash as an affiliate for an online gambling site, risks and loses everything he has on the site in a bid to make enough dough to cover his tuition.

Discovering a cheat in the system, Furst infiltrates the gambling empire of the site's multimillionaire owner, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) in Costa Rica. Originally intending to expose the cheat to Block in an effort to get his money back, Furst impresses the zealous businessman enough to be offered a job within the organization.

Despite a meteoric rise to the top of Block's business, Furst discovers that he may be a pawn in his boss' game, and the circumstances are exacerbated by Furst's romantic dalliances with Block's longtime associate (Gemma Arterton).

While gambling dramas aren't exactly new to the big screen, it's interesting to see a film take on the fascinating world of online gambling and, as the preamble of the film spells out, the devastating financial effect it can have on its young clientele.

The execution of the film itself, while slick, takes us down a predictable, or shall we say, rigged, path. Even if you haven't seen any of the trailers, the fate that awaits Furst is pretty obvious -- but thanks to solid performances by Timberlake, Affleck, Arterton and Anthony Mackie as an FBI agent trying to put the squeeze on Furst, and ultimately, Block, the film avoids being monotonous. In fact, it's quite entertaining at times, just not that compelling (apart from light commentary on people trying to fast-track the American Dream).

It will be interesting to see how audiences receive Affleck in "Runner Runner," the film hyphenate's first acting gig since his controversial casting as the Dark Knight in the "Man of Steel" sequel "Batman vs. Superman."

My guess is that they're going not going to show the Oscar-winning producer of "Argo" any mercy, even though he's more of a supporting player in the film. In all fairness, he ably embodies the film's cutthroat businessman, yet doesn't deliver the kind of performance that will instill fans' confidence in his abilities for the iconic role in the superhero sequel.

"Runner Runner," rated R, 2 1/2 stars out of 4.

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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