A rich kid faces his drug-dealing, drug-using, lie-to-everyone reckoning at a slow-jog in “The Runner,” a lurid, dazed and guilt-ridden thriller starring Edouard Philipponnat.
Director Michelle Danner’s latest builds to a solid finish at a lurid, extravagant party where the threat of doom hangs over the proceedings. But that follows a narrative that’s often adrift, weaving in so many flashbacks it’s sometimes tricky to figure out when the fictive “present” is.
Philipponnat, a Chalamet beauty who figured in “House of Gucci,” is Aiden, son of a well-off businesswoman (Elisabeth Röhm, of “American Hustle,” TV’s “Jane the Virgin”) who — when we meet her — has just called the cops on her only child. He’s blitzed and dealing, and he’s no stranger to Det. Wall (Cameron Douglas).
Ever-traveling Mom’s “scared straight” dreams are a delusion. Wall has enough on this kid to lock him away. The fact that he doesn’t, that three months later Aiden is back to his old tricks without so much as an ankle bracelet, is our clue.
Aiden is cutting class and deaf to the tough-love pleas of his track coach. He’s rolling in a G-Wagon and rolling in cash thanks to the connections of his running mate Blake (Nadji Jeter). There’s that One Big Deal they’d like to seal at a party they throw during another of Mom’s business trips.
But on this long day, as Aiden lurches between manic and stoned, sleeping with his working class girlfriend (Jessica Amlee) and absorbing the “Get us that juice, kid, we’re going to STATE” threats of the jocks, flashbacks tell us how this entitled kid got to the moment.
Philipponnat is so into character, playing a semi-plastered, mumbling teen, that his enunciation is subtitles-needed sloppy. Maybe it’s the callow, dislikable character, but he doesn’t register much beyond the $500 haircut pretty-boy level.
The stand-out performance here is delivered by Eric Balfour as the drug dealer they call Local Legend. His “meet” with the up-and-comer is a biting, touchy exchange full of contempt and class resentment and Balfour (TV’s “The Offer”) just crushes it.
Douglas makes a properly sinister, play-the-angles cop and if you close your eyes, you’d swear Michael Douglas’s son was “Drugstore Cowboys” era Matt Dillon.
But Danner, of “Hello Herman” and “Bad Impulse,” cooked up a sadly unsurprising story with screenwriter Jason Chase Tyrell and all the pretty people and pretty settings and flashbacks can’t finesse “The Runner” into something it’s not — tense and compelling.
Rating: R, violence, teen Drug and Alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Edouard Philipponnat, Elisabeth Röhm, Cameron Douglas, Nadji Jeter, Jessica Amlee and Eric Balfour
Credits: Directed by Michelle Danner, scripted by Jason Chase Tyrrell. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:44