Runner Runner, A Chancy Roll of the Dice (Film Review)

RunnerRunner poster


There are a lot of things you may not know about online gambling, but if you’re interested Runner Runner tells all.  The movie features two of Hollywood’s prominent stars Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck who face off against each other in a world that pays off big if you are on the right side of the craps table.  The film with a twist you’ll probably see coming does its best to throw you a winner, but the dice are loaded and they’re not in your favor.

The film opens on Richie (Justin Timberlake) a student working on his masters in business at Princeton.  He not only goes to college there, but works as a teacher’s aide to help supplement his tuition.  But the high cost of going to a college like Princeton way exceeds the funds Richie has so he’s been overseeing an online gambling site getting students to try their luck.

One day Richie gets called into the Dean’s office and has to face charges that he is running a gambling institution on campus.  The dean gives him a onetime warning to stop the rules violation or get booted out of school.  Facing the possibility of losing his chance to complete his masters, Richie decides to gamble online himself and go all in with all his remaining funds.  Things don’t go Richie’s way and he loses all his cash. Suspecting foul play by the online gambling company based in Costa Rica, he sets out for the third world country to confront the owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).

Block (Affleck) and Richie (Timberlake) in RUNNER RUNNER

Block (Affleck) and Richie (Timberlake) in RUNNER RUNNER

When Block puts an offer on the table he can’t refuse, Richie finds himself and his future facing challenges he may not be able to meet. Director Brad Furman attempts to make his film challenging and compelling as he shows the two dealing with situations in Costa Rica that are not on the up and up.  He tries to keep his audience off balance with the convoluted story that involves payoffs to local henchmen and the law adding some violence to the often dull film, but they’re so contrived that the ordeals are often laughable.

While the premise is surly intriguing, the story loses it punch after the first act.  Furman has put together some very good films, one I have in my video library I really like called The Lincoln Lawyer that’s ruthless and gripping to the very end.  But here he gets caught up in a cat and mouse story that often gets mundane and hackneyed for frequent moviegoers. Too contrived with side stories that are inserted to make the outcome a surprise, Furman makes his 90 minute film feel more like two hours.

Ben Affleck plays Ivan Block in RUNNER RUNNER

Ben Affleck plays Ivan Block in RUNNER RUNNER

His central actors are awful and insipid in their roles providing characters that are weak and uninteresting.  Affleck can’t seem to get hold of his Block vacillating between benevolent and despising, yet missing both for credibility. His character has to deal with a dangerous element that the script depicts in third world Costa Rica, but Affleck doesn’t meet the persona.  He’s dashing as the wealthy Block, but when it comes to cunning and despicable as required at the top of the character arc, he just doesn’t fit the bill.  There’s no fear projected and you are left without regret for the high stakes owner of this online ring.

Richie walks with love interest Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) in RUNNER RUNNER

Richie walks with love interest Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) in RUNNER RUNNER

Timberlake’s no better in his depiction of this sitting duck who puts all his life savings into a roll of the dice coming up a loser.  He sets himself up for an easy downfall as Richie and when his back’s to the wall there’s no real fight.  Timberlake looks like he’s just going through the motions for an easy paycheck, although some scenes look like he had to take some punishment for his salary.  Wimpy comes to mind with Richie and if that’s what the writer intended, then shame on him.

Runner Runner has been rated R by the MPAA for language and some sexual content.  The film does contain some violence and a scene that may disturb youngsters so be cautious when wanting to bring pre-teens as tagalongs.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A total disappointment after the first fifteen minute intro. (D)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie and John Heard
Directed by: Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content    
Running Time: 1 hr 31 min
Opening Date: October 4, 2013
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress