Before there was the internet, people had to gamble in person. You’d have to head on down to the nearest casino and try your hand at coming away with more money than you started with. Before that, people met in saloons and played poker, often gambling for more than money. Nowadays, gambling on the internet is the next big step! Hundreds of thousands of people play different casino games online every day and win and lose their real money. So, what do you get when you pit a recent Oscar winner against a multi-Grammy winner?
Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a part-time student at Princeton University and a part-time online gambler. He encourages gambling at school because he gains commission for every player he signs up. The only reason he does it is to help pay for his college tuition. One night, when he risks it all, he loses everything in a game that he was cheated in. Wanting to point out the flaw in Midnight Black’s online gambling site, Richie travels down to Costa Rica to meet with the site’s owner, millionaire Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).
Instead of writing Richie off, Ivan decides to keep him around to help run the website and run his deals in Costa Rica. As Richie becomes more accustomed to the wealth and the women, one in particular catches his eye. Unfortunately, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) is Ivan’s right-hand woman. As Richie and Rebecca spend more time together, Richie uncovers secret operations that Ivan is running in the background. With threats escalating, tensions mounting and an FBI Agent (Anthony Mackie) hot on the pursuit, Richie really needs to think about his future and how he’s going to secure it if he wants to make it out of Costa Rica as a free man.
Runner Runner is a very odd movie. The premise is intriguing enough for you to want to check it out, but something is missing from the film. Timberlake and Affleck do a fine job with their roles and they will keep you entertained, but that’s not enough for you to call this a good movie. The way the film progresses is pretty bad, as problems find easy solutions and almost every conflict is resolved effortlessly. The film only lasts about 90 minutes, so you’re in and out rather quickly. Unfortunately, within that 90 minutes, everything unfolds slowly and without surprise. All the “twists” are telegraphed and the path from A to B is one that’s littered with plot holes and cheesy explanations.
As far as performances go, Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake do their best with what they’ve got. Affleck’s character has some very cool monologues and his tainted view of what “corruption” really is, is actually very enjoyable. Timberlake has a lot of fun with his role and does a great job, but he doesn’t seem like he’s ready to be a leading man. However, he was much better than Arterton, who only serves to move the story along and attract the men in the audience. That’s not to say that she’s bad, she just doesn’t have anything to work with. Anthony Mackie’s FBI Agent is the film’s most glaring failure among the cast. He’s constantly yelling and is the typical overzealous archetype officer that we see so often in suspenseful crime dramas. He really has no business being in the film because his character does nothing for you or for the film. It’s sad, though, because I like both Arterton and Mackie, but they were given poorly written parts.
Brad Furman, the director, has a solid writing staff that are well versed when it comes to casino lingo. Furman recently directed The Lincoln Lawyer, which surprised audiences and proved that he could make a great movie. This time around, that’s not the case. There’s enjoyment to be had when the characters interact, but the story is somewhat simple and the solution to the overarching problem is written off with ease. There’s very little depth to the film and the characters make it hard for the audience to connect with anything they see. This all begs the question: “Why should I care about this film?” The answer; you shouldn’t. What Runner Runner does with its mere 90 minutes is nothing impressive and it will leave your mind by the next day. If it doesn’t matter to the audience, then why does it exist?
Those were the questions that ran around my head after watching the film. As much as I love Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, they chose to do a film that doesn’t benefit either of them. Actually, the film doesn’t benefit anyone. It’s all very sad, because I, along with others, wanted a decent film out of Runner Runner. Gambling has always provided fun stories and while this story is fun, it doesn’t hold up over time. Fortunately for Timberlake, he’s still the “Prince of Pop” and his new album will overshadow Runner Runner. For Affleck, he has a shiny new Oscar and he’s going to play Batman next; he’s got nothing to worry about. As for Mackie and Arterton, they will still find work and this film shouldn’t cast a large shadow over their careers. I just wish that the plot was more thought out and that the writers would have added more depth to their characters. At the end of the day, Runner Runner is a fun flick that won’t impact your life in any way, whatsoever. If anything, you should see it if you like the actors. Other than that, you can still live a happy life not seeing this film.
Runner Runner Trailer