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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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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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