** out of ****
If the summer movie season is overly bloated with a rehash of uninspired reboots and ceaseless sequels, than the fall - that calm after the storm of the blockbuster season when the studios catch a second wind before going full sprint into the artsy, Oscar race of Winter - is congested with "formula" films. These may not be remakes or another tired chapter in an out-of-breathe anthology, but a fog of déjà vu clouds over audiences, leaving them with that same sense that they've seen this all before. This is the feeling you get watching Runner Runner. It's like this movie is in a motion picture witness protection program - you recognize the plot, but all the characters have different names and they are living somewhere else now. Just because this isn't Fast and Furious 14 or Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Newer New Beginning doesn't mean it isn't another reheated serving of cinematic leftovers.
This is not to say Runner Runner is not enjoyable. In fact, this painfully predictable picture is actually brisk - if forgettable - fun thanks to energized performances from Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. I wish I could hate on JT - top selling album so far this year, brilliant live performer, every woman loves him…the scales of fortune seem unfairly balanced that he'd also be one of the rare musician-turned-actors who's actually good. Yet, his character is intelligent, adaptive and fun to watch. Bravo also to Batman 6.0 for delivering a chillingly stoic corporate sociopath. The rest of the cast is mind-sufferingly one-dimensional. Timberlake's love interest (Gemma Arterton) is your typical beautiful-Bond-girl-in-distress: she was once in love with the villain, but now finds his behavior terrifying. So, she falls for the protagonist and, in secret, helps him turn the bad guy over to the authorities so they can run off happily-ever-after at the end. Yawn.
All-in-all, there isn't a hell of a lot showing at the moment, so if you're really fiending for a movie fix, you could do worse. Just keep your expectations in check.