Runner Runner, 2013.
Directed by Brad Furman.
Starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Michael Esper and Oliver Cooper.
When a poor college student who cracks an online poker game goes bust, he arranges a face-to-face with the man he thinks cheated him, a sly offshore entrepreneur.
When it comes to movies about poker or playing cards, more often than not they end up being pretty bad. Every now and again you get something like Casino Royale which ends up being great, although a lot of that may have been because it was a Bond movie. The majority of the time though, you get movies like 21 which are just ridiculous and take themselves way too seriously. Unfortunately, Runner Runner falls in with the latter as it’s not very entertaining and a rather dull movie.
Justin Timberlake stars as Richie, a college student with money problems who spends most of his time playing online poker. He puts all the money he does have toward a certain online game that he thinks he has figured out the key to winning but ends up losing and thinks he was cheated out of his money. Devastated, Richie finds out who the owner of the online game is, an online gambling tycoon named Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), and arranges to meet with him in Costa Rica. Ivan takes Richie under his wing after promises of instant wealth but Richie soon finds out that Ivan may be more dangerous than he originally thought.
There aren’t a lot of positives to be found in Runner Runner. The biggest problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really let the audience get invested in it’s main character and the story itself isn’t all that interesting which leads to it being quite boring. It’s hard to say whether the lack of an interesting main character is due to bad direction or a bad performance by Timberlake. Timberlake isn’t terrible but it’s clear that he’s not a great leading man and is more suited for supporting roles like in The Social Network.
You could say the saving grace here is Ben Affleck but as with the character Richie we don’t really get to know much about Ivan other than he’s rich and can get a little crazy from time to time. Affleck does a fine job with the role but it seems like director Brad Furman doesn’t quite know what to do with his characters, which is strange considering he directed the surprisingly good The Lincoln Lawyer. There are two subplots that include Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) as a love interest for Richie and Anthony Mackie (Pain & Gain) as an FBI agent that wants to use Richie to get to Ivan. Arterton feels like she could have been cut out altogether and while Mackie tries – just like he does in every movie – his whole part of the story felt like it could have been cut as well.
With a better director behind the camera Runner Runner could have been a more competently made movie but it ends up being just a waste of time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★