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Runner Runner

One of the first sound movies was ‘The Al Jolson Story’.  Charting the life of the famous singer, it paved the way for crooners to make the leap into film.  Bing Crosby, Beyonce and Madonna among many have tried their hand at celluloid fame.  Few have made a successful transition. Justin Timberlake so far appears to have made good as ‘Runner Runner’ proves.  Switching from performing pop ditties to acting with ease, his latest shows some talent in an often unforgiving industry.

 

Cheated out of tuition money after playing an online poker game, student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) seeks revenge.  Locating the site’s owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), he confronts him.  To his surprise Ivan asks him to join his operation.  Accepting, little does Richie know the extent of Ivan’s shady existence.  This is further magnified when Richie becomes a pawn by the FBI to bring Ivan down.  What follows is a trail of murder and deceit with few left standing.

 

‘Runner Runner’ more than lives up to its title.  A very fast-paced movie, its brevity often comes at the expense of characterisation.  Whilst the initial set-up is interesting, the execution falters.  Within a space of a few minutes, Furst loses his money, tracks down Block and then joins his organisation.  This bewildering speed defies belief with plot holes continually increasing.  The naivety of Timberlake’s character also becomes irritating despite a generally solid performance.

 

Brad Furman directs the workman-like screenplay with some flair.  Although very much a case of ‘style over substance’, he injects some suspense helped by Affleck’s arrogantly menacing role.  Affleck brings unpredictability to a rather predictable narrative even if the action scenes are reasonably exciting.  There’s a sense more could have been added to the script with its ‘bare bones’ feel diluting the compelling nature it needs.

 

Superficially thrilling ‘Runner Runner’ could have been better.  Working as a by the numbers thriller it at least doesn’t disgrace its performer’s reputation with the singer-to-cinema quota sure to remain intact.

 

Rating out of 10:  6

Lovelace

Pornographic movies are some of the most profitable films made which is interesting given how few actually talk about it.  Many refuse to admit to having watched any with sex still a taboo topic for prudish censors.  One person who became famous for starring in such films was Linda Lovelace who starred in the notorious 1970’s money-maker ‘Deep Throat’.  As a major hit it briefly made the genre fashionable with ‘Lovelace’ charting the behind the scenes dramas shaping the main player’s lives.

 

Married to Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard), Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) became a star.  Changing her name to Linda Lovelace, she appeared in seminal porn title ‘Deep Throat’.  An over-night sensation, the adulation she received was little compensation for her personal turmoils.  Burdened by a controlling husband and wanting to leave, her struggles and expose of the business garndered a different life to which she desired.

 

‘Lovelace’ is a film of two halves.  The first looks at the ‘glitz and glam’ of an industry finally emerging from the shadows.  The other explores the trauma behind such an event as Lovelace endured her husband’s latent brutality.  Whilst liberties have likely been taken to craft a compelling narrative, the overall theme of porn industry abuse is still timely.  How some took advantage of her lack of self-worth and fame for their own predatory purposes is exposed in often harsh tones.

 

This is what sets ‘Lovelace’ apart from other works such as ‘Boogie Nights’.  Its refusal to gloss over the ugly side of the business confirms its general bravery.  This extends to the uniformly excellent performances.  Sarsgaard and Seyfried in particular embody their character’s differing determined drive which ultimately would nearly destroy them.  This isn’t a mere ‘1970’s music soundtrack fest’ but a challenging look at someone gaining the confidence to fight their way out of emotional torment.

 

Making such an uncomfortable story entertaining and enlightening is no mean feat.  ‘Lovelace’ succeeds at both.  That Lovelace became a champion in cleaning an industry which made her name said much about the tenacity of a human spirit refusing to be broken.

 

Rating out of 10:  8