Movie Review: Runner Runner
2 stars out of 5
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 22:10
When I heard about this movie, I figured it would be similar to others of its kind: a fast-paced thriller, telling the tale of some poor fellow hitting it big at the slots, getting in the league with the wrong bunch and then losing it all. This is sort of what happens, but is slower to get to the point while going through all of the banal plot layered with a cheesy voiceover.
“Runner Runner” is the story of Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), a student attending Princeton for his masters in finance. He runs into money trouble and realizes he won't be able to afford his $60,000 tuition unless he takes action. In order to fund his education, Richie gets involved in online gambling at his school. After he is caught and threatened by the dean, Richie moves on to playing poker for the cash. He, of course, loses big and finds out he was cheated by the smart use of statistics.
Richie is outraged by this, and coupled with his desperation to get the money back, he travels to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the head honcho and owner of the world’s biggest online gambling website. Ivan reimburses Richie for his loss and, even better, asks him to come and work for him. It looks like Richie has finally made it big, right? Wrong—he digs himself into an even deeper hole than ever before.
While working for Block, Richie meets Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton), and they become romantically involved. As the movie progresses, Block sends Richie out to do his grunt work where he gets trounced by a guy that Block swindled out of payment. Richie soon realizes he must try and leave the country or get sucked into Block's scheme and take the blame for what Block's corporation has been doing when Block skips the country to set up house elsewhere. With Rebecca on his side, Richie comes up with a plan to have Block arrested on American territory. Richie leaves the FBI agents with a flash drive with a massive amount of evidence to convict Block, while Richie and Rebecca make their getaway on a private jet.
FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) added comedic relief to the film. Although he had few lines, he delivered them with passion as he threatened Richie and then later apologized for beating him up. He was the prime source of entertainment, unlike Affleck, who was given some humorous lines but delivered them in the same monotone voice that he had during the whole film. His lack of expression really comes through in the film and makes me think the part could have been better played by someone who cared about his lines more. However, Timberlake played his part well, with a boyish charm and naivety that gives off the impression of a typical college student.
“Runner Runner” has a slow beginning with a plot that doesn’t seem to come together. There are some scenes that are just “there” and could be fleshed out to give them further depth and more than twenty seconds of screen time. Some scenes are integral to the movie plot, but are just plopped in to explain later action. It feels like the real plot starts halfway through the movie when Richie tries to board a plane home and continues into the explosive ending, which, although it comes quickly, leaves the audience satisfied. Overall, this movie is good for a quick, action-packed thriller, but I don't think it's anything to write home to mom about.