2-fisted reviews: 'Runner, Runner', 'Riddick'
There's not a lot to be said about movies that go halfsies. "Runner, Runner" - the new movie by "Lincoln Lawyer" director Brad Furman and starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Arthur Mackie takes a while to get revved up like it's running on diesel. It's an update on the old morality play of a greenhorn (Timberlake) sucked into the online gambling world by a generous but clearly malevolent benefactor (Affleck) even as the fuzz (Mackie) stays on the sidelines. Richie Furst (Timberlake) is a Princeton math genius who gets gypped of his savings in an online gaming site. He jets off to Costa Rica and then asks for a refund from online gambling lord Ivan Block (Affleck). Block relents, gives Richie back his money then offers him a piece of the action with a seven-figure annual salary. Who wouldn't want odds like that? Well, anybody who hasn't seen a Martin Scorsese gangster movie. Pretty soon, Richie's not just running the site, he's paying off the gaming commissioner and the cops while trying not to get killed by Block's enemies and Block himself. Timberlake as the lead is too vanilla as the guy smart enough to keep an online gaming syndicate running; Affleck is too blokey to be the full-on bad guy that this movie needs. Mackie steals all the best lines as an FBI agent who wants to bring down Block while Gemma Arterton is somewhere in there as a love interest. There's a bit about crocodiles that raises the pulse a bit but chickens out at the last minute. "Runner, Runner" keeps the thrills coming at an even clip before speeding up for the finale. Thankfully, like the best gamblers and movies, it saves its best cards and twists for last.
Watched the latest Riddick movie by Vin Diesel. My ticket was free so I can't really ask for my money back. What I really want back is the time I wasted watching this dreck. This movie pretty much rehashes the first Riddick movie (Pitch Black for those asking) but without the surprise of seeing a freshly minted Diesel surprise you about how cool he is as an action star. It goes the Alien 3 route by taking a halfway decent sequel (Chronicles of Riddick) and putting it in the crapper. There’s not much of a story here - Riddick stranded on an alien planet, kills alien scorpions, hails bounty hunters so he can escape and then a last run for some fuel cells that he buried in the desert just so he can fight even more alien scorpions. Riddick’s night vision is wasted and his nigh invincible takes a serious hit. There's some gore and a decent side story about an alien hyena but really, what's left to recommend?
Look, I get it. Diesel is a star now with one decent franchise (Fast and the Furious) going strong and another one (Xxx) about to be revived. So why not revive the franchise that got him noticed in the first place? Pitch Black, made for $23 mil, was a hit in 2000. Its 2004 sequel, however, did not get its money back stateside. Director David Twohy tried to salvage what worked in the first movie and gives us something of a remake/sequel that doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t add anything new to the adventures of the last Furyan. Hate to say it but unless he has something new to say, Vin Diesel should stop making Riddick movies.