A riff on the “Logan’s Run” formula that rushes around in circles before collapsing in an exhausted heap, “In Time” posits a world (whether an alternate universe or future America isn’t clear) where the division between the wealthy few and the impoverished masses—shades of the current Occupy Wall Street movement and complaints about increasing income disparity!—has resulted in a system in which money has literally been supplanted by time. In the simplistic but promising premise concocted by writer-director Andrew Niccol (who traversed similar territory in 1997’s “Gattaca”), as a result of overpopulation everyone is genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, and how long they will survive beyond that point is determined by the amount of time they can earn, borrow, inherit or steal from day to day. (The total they have literally on hand is shown ticking away on a clock that goes up to thirteen digits, imprinted on their forearms in a form eerily reminiscent of the numbers tattooed onto concentration camp victims.) The rich, with huge amounts of time to live, are virtually immortal and live in luxury, in a “time zone” far removed from ordinary folk, who scramble to survive in ghettos separated from them by concrete barriers; and a security force of clock-watchers patrol the world to keep the system free of manipulation or subversion.

The plot kicks in when Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a hard-working fellow living with his fifty-year old mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde), who of course looks more like his wife, is given more than a century of time by a rich-guy (Matthew Bomer, of “White Collar”), who’s decided he’s tired of living and ends it all. Almost simultaneously Rachel expires when the system arbitrarily changes the cost of her bus ride home and she can’t get back to her son fast enough to get a “loan” from him. So Will decides to crash the enclave of the rich, where he soon catches the eye of baby-faced but ultra-rich Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser of “Angel” and “Mad Men”), who runs the entire time-based apparatus, and his sultry daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). But he’s discovered by the obsessive head of the clock-watchers, Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), who tries to take him in. Will escapes by taking Sarah hostage, and the two are soon on the run and scrounging for time to survive. Before long she’s come to sympathize with the “little people” and the duo have become a sort of Bonnie and Clod, breaking into pawn shops and banks to destroy the whole dirty system by handing out time for free.

“In Time” starts intriguingly, but it gets silly fast, and grows tiresome before long. Although Roger Deakins’ widescreen cinematography gives the images a burnished glow, the setting is not particularly interesting visually—the production design (Alex McDowell), art direction (Priscilla Eliott, Todd Cherniawsky and Chris Farmer), set decoration (Karen O’Hara) and costume design (Colleen Atwood) opt for a look that simply contrasts contemporary urban grubbiness but a sort of plastic Las Vegas idea of elegance. And though the numerous chases are choreographed by Niccol decently enough, they quickly become repetitious.

But the main problem with the picture lies in the script and the cast. Will, we’re supposed to believe has lived all his life in the ghetto, but he suddenly becomes a heroic figure whose ability to drive at NASCAR speeds, in reverse no less, is just a given {“What’s to know?” he explains to an incredulous Sylvia), and it’s equaled only by his skill with firearms. And Timberlake is the wrong choice for the character. He’s fine when playing the downtrodden, first-reel Salas, but doesn’t yet have the acting chops to pull off heavier material (the scene in which Rachel dies in his arms and he howls out his anguish is terrible—he sounds like he’s laughing rather than crying). And his light vocal timbre doesn’t let him pull off Will’s darker lines.

In addition to the tedious chases, Niccol overuses the countdown device, in which a character’s clock clicks down toward zero at climactic moments. It works in a suspenseful sequence in which Salas engages in a time-stealing face-off with a local gang boss (Alex Pettyfer—who, oddly enough, spouts the only English accent on display), but elsewhere is employed so frequently that it almost becomes a joke. Those episodes mostly involve Sylvia, whom Seyfried portrays with a stilted, exaggerated poutiness that makes the girl a dull brat indeed.

The rest of the actors are mired in the cliches Niccol foists on them. So Pettyfer plays nasty, Kartheiser smarmy, and Murphy snarky without any variation. By contrast Bomer has the good fortune to depart quickly after adopting his pose of suicidal world-weariness, but even in his relatively brief turn Johnny Galecki is overwrought as Will’s closest friend at work, whom he unwisely gives an additional decade.

Viewers who took to “Gattaca” might find “In Time” a pleasant trip down a familiar path. But others will probably consider it a frustrating slog down a road too many other action pictures have trod.