Wednesday 9 October 2013

Film Review: Runner Runner

"Staring contest, GO!"

Runner Runner is a Costa Rican-set, high-stakes thriller, centred around online gambling and addiction. It has all the ingredients for an intense, stylish and gripping film anchored by real-world issues. Couple this with a sexy and hip cast including Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie and you'd expect it to hit the jackpot, right? Errr, not really.

"Oooh, is that new shampoo?"
The issue with Runner Runner is that it trades all of this youthful talent and social commentary in for flashy visuals and a lack the substance to go with it. The whole affair feels mismatched and disjointed, none of the key ingredients gelling together to form anything of worth. What could have been a sharp, biting criticism of online gambling instead strives to show off how much cash, sun and sex you can land by cheating and lying.

First, let's start out with the premise. Justin Timberlake plays a Princeton economics student called Richie Furst who likes to gamble. He can't afford to pay his tuition straight-up and so resorts to taking his chances with online gambling. Despite having a depth of knowledge on how to play poker, Richie bleeds all his cash into the game and loses it all. Richie suspects foul play and the data he collects from the Princeton computers confirms it.

So, rather than reacting like any normal human being would by accepting defeat, dropping out of college and moving back into his parents house, Richie decides to go to Costa Rica and confront the billionaire behind the website, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) face-to-face.

Of course, Mr. Block decides to give Richie a job rather than killing him for calling him out. Which we can all accept as being the logical decision, right? Yeah, maybe not. The set-up is a bit of stretch. In fact, the whole plot is littered with stupid decisions that are poorly written and paced.

The dialogue is at times laughable and spoken with creaky, wooden delivery on Timberlake and Arterton's part. The former really lacks the presence to lead a film such as this, as we've seen before with 2011's In Time. Someone should really just let Timberlake know that he is better suited to comedy roles like Friends With Benefits and Bad Teacher and be done with it.

Meanwhile, the sultry Gemma Arterton is severely underwritten. Her character isn't given much background or motivation for her actions and only seems to be here so JT can get laid. And even then, there was a distinct lack of chemistry between the two. They, as a couple, weren't constructed well enough and it felt as though the only reason they were hooking up was because the script necessitated at least one semi-sex scene.

Disposable and two-dimensional, Arterton's character embodies the film as a whole; dressed up to look glamorous but with nothing of real substance underneath the style. Group this with her role in Quantum of Solace and she needs to call her agent for fear of being typecast as 'dispensable glamour girl'.

Also, Anthony Mackie's FBI agent was a missed oppurtunity. It was almost as though he was given one direction which simply read "be batshit crazy" and he ran with it. What could have been a gritty and grounded character amongst the other, hormone-fuelled gamblers is another element in which Runner Runner really misses the mark.

Ben Affleck's billionaire tycoon is quite possibly the only redeemable quality in the cast. He revels in the clunky script and has fun with it. He just injected a sense of fun into every scene he was in and didn't take it too seriously.

A poster for Runner Runner
In terms of technical elements, Runner Runner was all over the shop. The editing and direction was messy and ugly, with disjointed cuts and shaky-cam. With such a gorgeous backdrop, director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) really could have done a lot more.

The pacing was awful and really emphasised the flaws in the script. There were few surprises or twists to speak of. It was disappointingly predictable and by-the-book. The ending really has no gravity or shock to it. The film just simply finishes.

Also, it's kind of like Furman expects the audience to forgive this sloppiness by injecting excess amounts of sexy ladies in bikinis, flash cars and a cool soundtrack. Erm, no thanks Mr. Furman. Whilst it complements the setting and genre, we didn't come here just to see semi-nudity and shiny yachts.

Underwhelming and messy, Runner Runner leaves only Affleck sitting at the winners table. Arterton and Timberlake end up rolling snake eyes, whilst Furman gives the illusion of a slick, Ocean's Eleven style casino thriller, only to lump us with a limp and flat waste of time. Like the film itself says, everyone should know when to walk away. In your case, it should be before you purchase a ticket to see Runner Runner.

I give Runner Runner: 3/10


  1. Nice review, man, you hated this one a lot more than I did, that's for sure! I was more neutral concerning this movie personally. It was stupid and instantly forgettable, but nothing about it really bothered me while watching, so, eh?

    1. Yeah I was really let-down by this one. I had high expectations before the reviews rolled in that it'd be Ocean's Eleven mixed with a bit of Bond. Shame really. Thanks for the comment mate :)

  2. Not going to see this one then...



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