out of Five
Running time: 91
A bland and unsophisticated crime thriller set in the world of online gambling which sees Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck go head to head and through the motions.
What’s it all about?
When Princeton college student Richie Furst (Timberlake) is cheated out of a large sum of money by online poker site Midnight Black, he sets out to Costa Rica to confront the man in charge, Ivan Block (Affleck), who offers him a once in a lifetime chance to learn the rules of the online gambling industry by offering him a job. Just as Furst’s good luck begins, things start to take a turn for the worse with his idyllic lifestyle turning into a nightmarish race to save his life and reputation.
Justin Timberlake turns in a decent performance as a struggling student wowed by the bright lights and big bucks of online gambling, and the ideas at the core of the film are relevant to recent economic events even if they play out as unsubtle allegory. Despite the final product is lacking in style it’s clear to see why this stellar cast were attracted to the project.
The main problem with Runner Runner is its complete lack of identity. Director Brad Furman attempts to mix the intensity and scandal of The Social Network with the humour and slick montages of the Ocean’s films and fails miserably. Writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien also wrote the screenplay for Rounders which was a much more successful and stylish drama revolving around the gambling world, and they recently penned Ocean’s Thirteen, which explains the similarities in style.
The initial reason for Furst going to Costa Rica is laughable, as stating that “everyone gets a fair shot,” when it comes to gambling has absolutely no grounds in reality: Furst is supposed to be a naïve character, but this pushes the limits of believability.
Gemma Arterton appears as the straight talking Rebecca Shafran, right hand woman to Block, who sadly is given very little to do and doesn’t have any character development, merely ending up as a trophy for the two men to squabble over. Furthermore Timberlake and Arterton make a bad pairing romantically having no on-screen sexual chemistry, making their dalliance all the more unbelievable.
As Furst begins to find himself in more and more dangerous situations any sense of peril is absent with Furman unable to mount dread as the film plays out exactly as expected.
If you set your expectations to extremely low, Runner Runner may make you shudder from time to time, but overall it lacks any tension or style.