September 28, 2013

"The house always wins, which is why we don't have to cheat people."
Poker. Bikinis. Yachts. Minimalist beach houses. What could possibly go wrong with that? Even topped with few big names like JT and Affleck to magnetize the audiences to sit still during the short 90 minutes; this movie could be a gold mine if executed well. I was going blind seeing this. I only watched the trailer once, also didn't bother to look at any rates and early reviews; easily said, I had no expectation. So, how was it exactly?

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), a former Wall Street player, now studying at Princeton, was having a hard time paying his college tuition. His way to overcome that was by connecting Princeton's students to online gambles, making him warned by Princeton's dean. Richie was forced to shut down whatever it is he was doing or he'd be out of Princeton for good. But, Richie came with another idea; he played poker online on the famous online gambling site called The Midnight Black, until he was being cheated. Having lost all his money, he then flew to Costa Rica only to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), The Midnight Black's owner. Block wasn't paying attention at first, but then he remembered that some of his people created a back-door access that was surely being the tool for cheating other players. Block then paid his apology, but he didn't stop there; he saw Richie's aptitude and offered him to join his empire. Richie, of course, agreed, and he began his new life as one of Block's trustee. Things were going so well until Richie realized that Block wasn't as good as he thought he was, especially after he was being provocated by FBI's Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie), saying that Block wasn't the man he said he was, that all of that was just for a set up. For that, Richie planned his payback, all while laying eyes on Block's woman, Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton).

This was the kind of movie which was trying to be smart when it actually felt light-headed and downright shallow. The script was lazy and too unpredictable, like I know what your intentions were and what would happen next, these were all just too mainstream. The plot was hazy (especially the 'summing up the powers to strike back' moments), with no pulse, ongoing tension or excitements whatsoever. It was totally boring and messy, leaving no impression at all but a huge thanks for making it lasted for humble 90 minutes. Brad Furman's directing was flat; it was trying to be stylish but I saw no exploration nor developments (you definitely could explore Costa Rica's slums and riches and their relation to gambling a little bit). It was all just sort of happened, right there and then, with all 5W+1H questions remain blurry.

We see JT's Sean Parker persona here in Richie's, but one thing differentiated Richie to Parker; that intelligence, that determination, that urge, that willingness and that suave were never presented in Richie's. I just felt like JT's character here was just what it was, sort of all over the place with no special connections or fondness whatsoever. As for Affleck, well, he was OK, but then his character was underdeveloped, unexplored, leaving this huge fill-in-the-blank page on his character's studies. As for Arterton, she was just another sugarcoat who delivered enough pheromones. What was so dissapointing here was that Leonardo DiCaprio SHOULD HAVE played Block, instead of just being one of the 7 producers here (just saying).

Finally said, this movie didn't offer much. It was boring, lazy and corny. Rental.

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