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Friday September 20, 2013 01:14

Ben Affleck as Online Gambling Kingpin

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RUNNER, RUNNER

Despite the risks – statistical and criminal – online gambling holds innumerable attractions. In today’s post-economic-meltdown world, young people have fewer job options than ever before. But that hasn’t done anything to affect their desire to get-rich-quickly. This generation – consumers from early childhood – is used to getting what they want, when they want it, with the click of a mouse.

“Runner Runner” depicts the risks of this reality starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton where Timberlake plays Princeton grad and former Wall Street star Richie Furst, who believes he’s been swindled by an online poker organization based in Costa Rica. He decides to head to Central America to confront the owner, Affleck’s Ivan Block, and is soon seduced by the promise of immense wealth. As Block’s right-hand man he uncovers more than he bargains for, and is soon juggling loyalties and trying to stay alive.

The lavish life of “Runner Runner’s” gambling kingpin Ivan Block is what director Brad Furman calls, “the new American dream.” He elaborates: “Technology has led us to a world where everything comes very quickly, which has expedited this concept of the American dream. Young people today want everything faster – especially money.”

Affleck agrees, “Underneath this allure of fast and easy money is something inherently fraudulent, crooked, broken and wrong.” Everything now is about getting rich quickly, by any means necessary. The new corporate ethos is to cut the other guy’s throat. In some circles, it’s even considered healthy and to be prized.”

Ivan Block’s own journey down the rabbit hole has yielded untold riches, which is all the enticement Richie needs for what ultimately becomes a rite of passage. “Ivan Block is the unapologetic mentor who says, ‘Get what you can get and don’t think twice about it,’” says Affleck. “Block wants to manipulate Richie, to get him to be part of his team. His mission is to groom Richie so he won’t object to some of the darker things he sees.”

Affleck notes that reading people is one of Block’s chief strengths in distracting Richie from the tycoon’s less savory aspects: “Block knows what buttons to press on people, and his most impressive trick is to distract them from his true motives. To Block, people are insecure and almost desperate to succeed. He knows people feel they’ve been kicked around and that we’re taught to chase the dollar and to equate wealth with status, honor, success, and manliness. So he holds up that wealth, which blinds Richie to what’s really going on.”

“The movie hopefully will show how complicated Ivan Block is. We like to stand apart and look at people in this binary way and say you’re bad and you’re good, and I think that makes really an interesting drama. What I hoped was that people would understand and identify with this guy on some levels, and maybe some people would find him and what he’s proselytizing appealing. Justin’s character does early on, and then given time he’s revealed to be a guy who makes very bad choices and does things we recognize as immoral. What I think is interesting is that hopefully, if we’ve done our job right, you see at the root of those choices was a guy who wasn’t necessarily bad to begin with, but chose a road. Once he made that choice he did what he had to do in order to be successful on that road,” Affleck explains of his character.

Before stepping in the caped crusader’s realm, Affleck says he immensely enjoyed the opportunity to “chew the scenery” of “Runner Runner” and, after the enormous success he had as director of last year’s “Argo,” relished the chance to “just be an actor again”. Which may come as a surprise to those who have adjusted to thinking of him as a world-class director – before the groundbreaking “Argo,” Affleck helmed the kidnapping drama “Gone Baby Gone” and Boston heist thriller “The Town.”

Included in Affleck’s journey as one of Hollywood’s A-list actors are unforgettable and blockbuster films such as “Good Will Hunting,” “Chasing Amy,” “Jay and Silent Bob,” “Mallrats,” “Dogma,” “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Daredevil,” “Gigli,” “Hollywoodland,” “Smokin’ Aces” and “The Company Men.”

“Runner Runner” opens September 26 in theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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