Synopsis: The last couple of weeks have offered up the odd little treat at the movies, like an amuse-bouche to get our taste buds primed for the tastier stuff to follow in December. Not only does the 12th month give us Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, we also get a delicious buffet of great movies. This week the Reel Guys look ahead to the 31 days that sate our appetite for great movies while feeding the voraciously hungry Oscars.
Richard: Mark, people complain that trailers give away too much of the story, but one upcoming movie has been releasing trailer after trailer — usually not a good sign — and has yet to reveal itself. Apparently The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Scorsese (do I have to write his first name? I don’t think so) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey, is going to clock in at three hours, so no trailer, no matter how long or how many, can give away all the good stuff. All they have done is make me eager to see this stockbroker meltdown story. What’s grabbed you? Mark: I’m looking forward to The Wolf of Wall Street too. But I’ve already decided that Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Bros movie about the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961, will be my favourite movie of the year. Perhaps I should actually SEE the film before making my decision, but I know, Richard, I just know! I’ve been waiting for someone to make a movie like this for a long time, and who better than the Coen Bros? The trailer looks terrific and Justin Timberlake looks perfect in his orange alpaca cardigan, not that it would influence my decision in the least.
RC: Timberlake is such a conundrum for me. He’s a wildly talented guy whose movies frequently don’t work. My fingers are crossed that for him, Llewyn is more Social Network than Runner Runner. Saving Mr. Banks is another one I’m looking forward to. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood so the story of Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) wooing P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) for the rights to Mary Poppins is up my alley. That, and I’d watch Thompson do anything — bake a chicken, read the phonebook or play an uptight spinster.
MB: Here’s a guilty pleasure: Grudge Match, the story of two aging boxers facing off for the first time in 50 years. Since the boxers are played by De Niro and Stallone, it’s like a dream mash-up: Raging Bull vs Rocky! I’m hoping Will Smith gets a dream sequence cameo as Ali. And let’s not forget American Hustle, David O. Russell’s new film about greed, lust, politics, and the Mafia. Sounds like a perfect title. RC: Three things make me want to see American Hustle: the trailers (which are awesome), Christian Bale’s beer gut and Jennifer Lawrence’s extravagant hairdos.
MB: Wait! Make that De Niro’s beer gut and Stallone’s hairdo and it’s a Grudge Match!
“It’s the gambling business in Costa Rica,” says internet gaming mogul Ivan Block in “Runner, Runner,” “sometimes you get punched in the face.”
And sometimes moviegoers get slapped in the face by a really bad movie.
Justin Timberlake is Richie Furst, a Princeton student who works for an on line gambling site called Midnight Black. He earns a commission every time he signs up one of his fancy-pants classmates, but when the Dean’s Office discovers what he’s up to they call his bluff: Quit Midnight Black or quit Princeton.
He opts to stop recruiting for the site, but short on tuition money, pulls an all-nighter on line, hoping to earn enough to cover his expenses. Up $50,000 it looks like his plan is working until he is cheated out of his winnings and left with nothing.
Eager to confront the site’s main man Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) he travels to Costa Rica. Block, impressed with the young man’s spirit ups the ante, offering him a job. Soon Richie is Ivan’s protégé but with the position comes some wanted attention from Block’s ex-girlfriend Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) and unwanted attention from the FBI (Anthony Mackie).
“Runner, Runner” is a thriller without any thrills, a movie about cheating at gambling that feels like a cheat. It’s the kind of film where characters say things like, “Do you know how crazy this is?” to remind the audience that what they’re watching is interesting. Or, at least, is supposed to be.
From stilted narration and dialogue—“This isn’t poker,” sez Richie, “this is my life and I have one play left. Put all the chips in!”—to characters with all the depth of a lunch tray to a by-the-numbers story, “Runner, Runner” is one of the worst movies to escape… er… get released this year.
It could have been something. Director Brad Furman’s last film, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” was an elegant thriller with interesting performances and some tension, none of which is present in his latest film.
It’s too bad, because the components are all there, they are simply let down by a derivative script by Brian Koppelman & David Levien that is unconcerned with logic, realism or creating interesting characters.
It’s too bad because the actors struggle to bring something to the table, but for someone who drips charisma onstage J.T. is bland as rice pudding here and Arterton is given little to do but bat her eyelashes.
Affleck seems to be having fun as the villain—he even has man eating reptiles!—and has the prerequisite steely-eyed glare down pat but he’s not exactly menacing. He underplays the part and yet because his dialogue is so overwritten he actually adds some unintentional humor to a movie that takes itself too seriously.
“Runner, Runner” is a slickly made but dull movie.