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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Runner Runner

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Ben Affleck stars in a scene from the movie "Runner Runner."
 Set in the furtive, yet hugely profitable, world of online gambling, director Brad Furman's cat-and-mouse drama "Runner Runner" (Fox) makes for slick but forgettable entertainment.

Scenes of decadent sexuality, moreover, together with the steadily recurring vulgarities that pepper the dialogue, render this cautionary tale about the moral seduction of a basically decent protagonist too seamy for a wide audience.

Justin Timberlake plays our flawed hero, ruined Wall Street executive-turned-graduate student Richie Furst. The innocent victim of his former firm's downfall, Richie has abandoned the financial district in favor of the ivy-covered walls of Princeton University. There he earns most of his tuition from the fees a digital gambling concern pays him to steer his interested fellow students toward their website.

All this is very au courant and Occupy-ish, but not very exciting. So, enter the crusty old dean who lowers the boom on Richie's enterprise, leaving Richie to try to parlay his small savings into the hefty price of a master's degree from Old Nassau by doing some high-stakes betting of his own at a different site.

When this effort fails in spectacular fashion, Richie, certain that his massive loss was the result of cheating, sets off to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the elusive CEO of the offshore company under whose auspices he came up short. The charismatic Block is so taken with Richie that he not only refunds the lad's money, but offers him a high-flying job.

Sunsets, motorboats, wads of cash, not to mention tropical menswear reminiscent of an old episode of "Miami Vice"... what's not to love? Well, for one thing, the fact that Richie spends much of his workday delivering bribes to local officials. And, for another, the sordid, bedroom-based blackmail scheme to which Block convinces Richie to resort in the drive to steal a top dealer away from the competition.

As Richie becomes increasingly disillusioned with Block's shady ways, FBI Special Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) makes a timely appearance, and starts pressuring Richie to collect incriminating evidence against his new mentor. And love comes calling in the fetching guise of Block's corporate number two, and ex-girlfriend, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton).

Whatever lessons Richie learns from his ever more perplexing dilemma, a healthy wariness of materialism turns out, in the end, not to be among them.

The film contains brief but disturbing action violence, fleeting graphic images of group sex, rear nudity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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