The title Runner Runner at first glance is a strange one. Initially I figured the film would be about people who were always getting chased, on the run, or cowards. Or a combination of the three!
It turns out it is a Texas Hold ‘Em term. It is when you don’t have anything good in your hand or the initial three cards on the table, but gain a better hand after the fourth and fifth cards have been laid down. It is a risky situation that most poker players do not rely on, because that would be ridiculous and more often than not, a waste of money. Let’s just call it synonymous with extremely lucky and stupid.
Enough foreshadowing? Alright, plot time.
“I’m not sure what to do with my hands..”
Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), besides having a very strange name, is a masters student in finance at Princeton. He used to work on Wall Street out of college, and was about a year away from reaching that seven figure income, before it all blew up in his face and he lost everything with the economic crash.
Because of his past, he cannot receive financial aid, and has to literally gamble his life savings to pay for tuition. Until he loses it all on the website Midnight Black. According to his data and math skills, he clearly got scammed out his money, and he wants it back, so he decides to fly down to Costa Rica and talk to the website owner personally.
Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) is wanted by the FBI and world famous for his online poker sites, but he does enjoy making his business better through smart Princeton students. He ends up offering Richie a job, and Richie starts earning the money he thinks he deserves.
Hooray money! Money of course never comes at a cost, and there is surely nothing illegal at foot down here! Gemma Arterton plays the one woman who has a speaking role in this film, and Anthony Mackie a hardass FBI agent who really wants to take Ivan down, no matter the cost.
Here is a picture of these men walking. You know, not running, and for sure not running running.
It turns out my original guess about this movie wasn’t entirely incorrect. By the end, a lot of characters do go on the run: whether it is from the law (US or Costa Rican), from Ivan Block, or from other thugs. There is definitely a lot more running in this film than fighting or relaxing.
What I will say positively about Runner Runner is that it started out with an interesting concept and had a lot of potential. Who doesn’t love a good story about corruption and money?
The problem lies with how fast this movie moves, basically too fast to care about any of the characters and too fast to really feel the fear of the situation they have placed themselves in. At most I would describe the film as mildly entertaining, but I didn’t get any real value out of it due to how it was set up. All of the problems presented in the film were either solved instantly, or kept hidden like a Scooby-Doo plot point until they happened. I am not complaining that they kept some information secret, just that when the reveal happened, it was met with some mix of confusion and boredom.
The acting wasn’t spectacular, nor were any of the twists or turns. But I think both of those instances can be blamed squarely on the directing/editing. The last movie the director did was The Lincoln Lawyer, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, Runner Runner seems to be a step in the wrong direction.
I did like watching Affleck as a man too rich to know what is good for him. It is a good stepping stone before he plays Batman, another man too rich to know what is good for him.
1 out of 4.