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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Runner Runner

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Ben Affleck stars in a scene from the movie "Runner Runner."
 Set in the furtive, yet hugely profitable, world of online gambling, director Brad Furman's cat-and-mouse drama "Runner Runner" (Fox) makes for slick but forgettable entertainment.

Scenes of decadent sexuality, moreover, together with the steadily recurring vulgarities that pepper the dialogue, render this cautionary tale about the moral seduction of a basically decent protagonist too seamy for a wide audience.

Justin Timberlake plays our flawed hero, ruined Wall Street executive-turned-graduate student Richie Furst. The innocent victim of his former firm's downfall, Richie has abandoned the financial district in favor of the ivy-covered walls of Princeton University. There he earns most of his tuition from the fees a digital gambling concern pays him to steer his interested fellow students toward their website.

All this is very au courant and Occupy-ish, but not very exciting. So, enter the crusty old dean who lowers the boom on Richie's enterprise, leaving Richie to try to parlay his small savings into the hefty price of a master's degree from Old Nassau by doing some high-stakes betting of his own at a different site.

When this effort fails in spectacular fashion, Richie, certain that his massive loss was the result of cheating, sets off to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the elusive CEO of the offshore company under whose auspices he came up short. The charismatic Block is so taken with Richie that he not only refunds the lad's money, but offers him a high-flying job.

Sunsets, motorboats, wads of cash, not to mention tropical menswear reminiscent of an old episode of "Miami Vice"... what's not to love? Well, for one thing, the fact that Richie spends much of his workday delivering bribes to local officials. And, for another, the sordid, bedroom-based blackmail scheme to which Block convinces Richie to resort in the drive to steal a top dealer away from the competition.

As Richie becomes increasingly disillusioned with Block's shady ways, FBI Special Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) makes a timely appearance, and starts pressuring Richie to collect incriminating evidence against his new mentor. And love comes calling in the fetching guise of Block's corporate number two, and ex-girlfriend, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton).

Whatever lessons Richie learns from his ever more perplexing dilemma, a healthy wariness of materialism turns out, in the end, not to be among them.

The film contains brief but disturbing action violence, fleeting graphic images of group sex, rear nudity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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