Runner Runner

Directed by: Brad Furman

Starring: Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, and Ben Affleck
I knew that Runner Runner was going to be a bad movie.  I am not a part of the “I hate Ben Affleck” fan club.  To the contrary, Affleck has had some great films: Good Will Hunting, Dogma, Argo, and The Town to name a few.  I did not join the countless fanatics that practically shut down Twitter when Affleck was cast as the new Batman.  I think he is a radically different choice than Christian Bale, but after such a recent successful run with the Christopher Nolan series, a different direction was needed to separate the films.
With that being said, my low expectations for Runner Runner were not caused by Affleck, but by the lack of marketing thrown behind the film.  The movie stars Justin Timberlake and Affleck and was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.  With those A list names attached, one would expect Runner Runner to have an impressive public relations blitz.  However, Runner Runner debuted with barely a whisper, which led me to believe that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Unfortunately, my suspicions turned out to be correct, and Runner Runner is a predictable, positively boring film.

Richie Furst (Timberlake) is a graduate student at Princeton University.  Unfortunately for him, he does not have wealthy parents or any support and must pay for the hefty tuition himself.  “Richie F.” supports himself by acting as an affiliate for online gambling sites.  He convinces fellow students and professors to try the gambling sites and he receives a commission for every person he brings to the site.  However, Princeton’s dean is not thrilled about Furst’s activities and he threatens to expel him if he continues.  Desperate to raise cash for his tuition, Furst goes online to gamble and ends up losing all of his tuition money.  With high powered computers and fellow Princeton geeks behind him, he finds proof that the site was rigged and he was hustled.

Furious at being played, Richie flies down to Costa Rica to confront the infamous owner of the gambling site Ivan Block (Affleck).  Block is currently on the run from the law, and hiding out in Costa Rica where he runs an elaborate online gambling world.  Impressed by Richie’s intelligence and gumption, Block ends up offering him a job.  Seduced by the opportunity to become super wealthy as well as Block’s girlfriend Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton), Richie decides to stay in Costa Rica and take a bite out of the $30 billion online gambling industry.
Unfortunately for him, consorting with criminals proves to be quite dangerous.  FBI Agent Eric Shavers (Anthony Mackie) begins to pressure Richie to help him bring down Block.  Shavers is particularly tough with Richie as he likes to f*ck with Princeton guys because he went to Rutgers.  Soon Richie finds himself in the midst of a war between shady Costa Rican politicians, Ivan Block and the FBI.

Runner Runner is incredibly dull.  The dialogue is not particularly sharp or witty.  The plot is overwhelmingly predictable which makes the film drag.  Moreover, the attempts to add depth to the plot by making global statements about corrupt business practices, Wall Street, and human nature seem tacked on and obvious.  At one point, I was so bored that my mind wandered to the list of errands that I needed to run after the film ended. 

To compound matters, Justin Timberlake just does not get the job done. I am a huge fan of his music, and I just attended his fantastic Legends of Summer tour with Jay Z.  However, his performance in this film is underwhelming to say the least.  His voice and wide-eyed boy look made his reckless, foolish Richie Furst character even more annoying. 

Runner Runner has only one bright spot: Ben Affleck.  Affleck does not usually play the villain, but he shines as the online gambling kingpin Ivan Block.  He has the right amount of slick swagger, anger and machismo to steal every scene that he is in.  I actually found myself rooting for his incredibly corrupt character rather than the dull, naïve graduate student played by Timberlake.  Affleck’s performance simply overpowers the less seasoned Timberlake.

As much as I enjoyed Affleck’s performance, his character alone could not make up for the film’s other flaws.  Runner Runner gets a wasted rating.  Have some tequila shots with this one.