From the writers of Rounders, but closer in quality to 21, Brad (The Lincoln Lawyer) Furman’s online gaming thriller is a strange beast. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with it, but it’s so glossily mediocre that it’s impossible to recommend to anyone not contemplating a lengthy plane journey.
As if carrying on from The Social Network, JT plays an online poker ace trying to pay his way through Princeton, despite being 32 and, to all intents and purposes, Justin Timberlake. After being cheated by Ben Affleck’s big cheese, he flies to Costa Rica to complain in person. “Let’s think this through for a second,” warns his best friend, shorthand for: “This makes absolutely no sense at all.” Soon Affleck’s giving our hero one of those inexplicable criminal apprenticeships that only happen in the movies. Why? “I look at you and I see myself,” he purrs. Oh OK.
Although you can see the appeal of tooling round South America pretending to be gangsters for the actors, there’s much less in it for the audience. Timberlake and Affleck make uneasy leading men, Gemma Arterton is underused, as usual, and there’s next to no jeopardy. Timberlake’s biggest worry seems to be whether he’ll end up “rich or super-rich”, Affleck barely breaks a sweat even when he’s feeding local dignitaries to the crocodiles, and a familiar Faustian narrative plays out to anonymous EDM. “It is what it is, sorry pal!” says Affleck, a shrugged apology for a film that promises much, but only delivers a facsimile of real fun – a bit like online gaming.