Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton
Truth be told, I would’ve had the review up sooner if not for the fact that when I was Runner Runner, I fell asleep during the movie. Not because of being sleep depraved or having narcolepsy, no, it’s because the movie was boring me so much, my brain decided it would be better to pay $10.75 just to take a nap. But when you’re writing a review, its best to see the whole movie…or so I’ve been told. The bad part is, I had to pay and watch Runner Runner again (I may also have the distinct pleasure of being the only person in America to have seen this movie twice). So if you haven’t already caught on to where I’m going with this, Runner Runner is awful…just plain awful…but great if you want to grab a quick nap.
There are so many problems with Runner Runner, I don’t even know where to begin. I could spend this whole review talking about the major step backwards for Ben Affleck or the concern of all Batman fans that he really isnt’ a great actor when he’s not the one directing. I could spend a good amount of time talking about Justin Timberlake and his one emotion that he seems to display in every role he has and he’s not even good at displaying that one emotion. Or I could talk about the massive train wreck that is the story, about how it is almost offensively bad by not only betraying character set ups, but betraying its own logic displayed in previous scenes. It’s overwhelming really, but I will try my best, to trash this thing called a movie.
Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a really smart guy. We know this because the story tells us (the movie in fact does a lot of telling, not showing). He’s going to Princeton after crashing on Wall Street. But to pay for school, Richie works as an associate for online gaming, getting a cut for all the traffic he brings to the website. But Princeton doesn’t condone this (stating this brings a bad reputation to Princeton) so Richie must take all of his money and play online poker for his tuition. But Richie gets cheated and loses all his money, so he sets off to Costa Rica to personally tell the owner of the web site Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), who’s a wanted man by the U.S Government (for racketeering, bribing an official, etc). Ivan likes Richie and offers him a job, which Richie quickly accepts. Oh and there is the hot assistant to Ivan, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) who quickly falls in love with Riche…or does she? Ivan may be using Richie as a Pawn. Oh and lets not forget about FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) who needs Richie’s help in bringing down Ivan. All of this sounds interesting? Well it certainly reads way better than is actually executed.
The story, which sets itself up as a classic don’t judge a book by its cover thriller (Richie coming off as naïve, Ivan coming off as a good misunderstood guy) doesn’t even try to develop the characters. Beyond being riddled with clichés, the movie seems to forget its own logic. Richie after arriving in Costa Rica is told Ivan Block is not only untouchable but the man behind the curtain to which no one can get to. But Richie easily gets to him in the following scene. Rebecca, who is shown being the hard as nails, won’t fall for any sort of guy flirtation routine, quickly drops that the minute she starts talking to Richie. Richie, who goes to Costa Rica to get his money back so he can finish school, because in his words, it’s means everything, quickly forgets that once Ivan offers him a job. Then the movie shifts into a messy not everyone is as they appear who’s playing who sort of game, but everyone is pretty much as they appear as they lazily set up plot twists that A) don’t work or B) shouldn’t even be consider plot twists.
Then there is the acting. Affleck, who at least looks like he’s having fun here (something that really hampered him early in his career) can’t overcome and rise above the awful dialogue that is given to him. Timberlake, well at least the guy tries, but let’s be honest; his acting skills are mediocre at best. Runner Runner might have saved face a bit had they gotten actors who could really transform the absurdity and make it entertaining (think Nicolas Cage) but neither Affleck or Timberlake have that kind of talent, so they come off just looking silly during their more serious moments. What is really shocking is this movie was written by the same two guys who penned Rounders, a movie that I felt did a good job at capturing the ugliness that can come with gambling. But then again, that movie also had Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich, which really helps your cause.
Now that I think about it, I probably should’ve made this review only 3 words long: F**K Runner Runner. That pretty much sums it up.