Online gambling has become a billion dollar industry. So many people are clicking away their savings accounts just so they can try to win big on one more hand. Princeton student Richie First (Justin Timberlake) is a promoter for a smaller online gambling site, desperately trying to get enough money from commissions to pay his way through his master’s degree. He tries his luck on the site Midnight Black to win the remainder of his tuition only to lose it all. Careful analysis reveals that someone was cheating, so he jets off to Costa Rica to confront the site’s owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).
What follows is a predictable plot that throws a bit of action and plenty of pretty faces at you. It’s all glitz and glam and moving at such a fast pace that you’re not really left with much time to think about what is happening. This isn’t a bad thing. Not every movie needs to be a deep, thoughtful journey into the characters’ minds and the situations transpiring. I am completely happy sitting down in front of something like Fast & Furious 6 or Runner Runner and enjoying a ride, but that also needs to be the goal of the movie.
I did enjoy watching Runner Runner, but I don’t think I enjoyed it for the same reasons the movie intended. It feels like Runner Runner wants to be so much more than the mediocre script can make it, in spite of having such a great cast that doesn’t phone in their performances. It’s especially telling with Richie and Rebecca Shafran’s (Gemma Arterton) growing romance. Richie just seems to smile at her from across the room in one scene and all of a sudden she’s smitten. While none of the characters experience any growth at all, this was the one place that something needed to develop and it’s just there.
The one thing that saves Runner Runner from being another bad thriller that would just disappear after a few weeks in the theater is the cast. Ben Affleck can pull off the disarming charm that could sway you from thinking that he is a terrible person and the villain of the movie, it’s just too bad that the script blatantly telegraphed just how evil he was the entire time. Justin Timberlake gave Richie just enough optimism and naivete that it would make sense that he would keep working for Block as long as he did in spite of all the warnings.
Runner Runner isn’t a blatantly bad movie, it just isn’t anything incredible. Which, considering the amount of talent involved, is strange. What Runner Runner provides is an entertaining thrill ride, nothing more. As soon as you try to slow down and actually think about the events transpiring, all you’ll be able to see are the seams barely holding it together. If you want to just go to the movies and turn your brain off, which I enjoy doing from time to time, Runner Runner will suit you perfectly.
In Theaters: October 4, 2013
Runtime: 91 min
Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content
Director: Brad Furman
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Official Site: http://www.runnerrunnermovie.com/