Terrible title, cheesy poster, next-to-no fanfare - for a gambling thriller all about deception, Runner, Runner seems ironically determined to make punters put their money anywhere but on it. And while optimists [present] might like to think that after the career rebirth triple whammy of Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo Ben Affleck can't lose his luck really runs out here.

Badly cast and with 40-watt charisma, Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a one-time Wall Street wunderkind turned mature student whose gambling gene results in him losing his tuition fees for Princeton when he gets too greedy and tries to win more.

Convinced that he has actually been cheated on online gaming colossus Midnight Black, Richie starts digging for proof and then scrapes enough money together for a flight to Costa Rica in a bid to present his case to the multi-billion firm's enigmatic owner Ivan Black (Affleck).

Black, we are told, is not the easiest man to meet. However, this being the kingdom of poor script it takes Richie all of five minutes to be standing in front of the big shot. And then everything becomes even more far-fetched and flung together.

From voiceover to central character to taking on the big guy, the plot of Runner, Runner has more than a little in common with Rounders, that poker movie starring Affleck's old buddy Matt Damon which has become something of a cult favourite. Turns out that Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote the scripts for both, but the slick and snappy they specialised in back in 1998 has deserted them here.

In too much of a rush, throwing in a dud romance with Gemma Arterton and failing to include even one decent card game in an attempt to generate tension, this rum ad meets rap video is just as painful to watch as last year's Las Vegas movie Lay the Favourite. Affleck is the best thing in it and gets the good lines. There aren't very many.

Don't mug yourself.

Harry Guerin

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