I was hoping for a lot more from Runner, Runner (rated R). Director Brad Furman’s last film was The Lincoln Lawyer, which was a good film and writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien have some decent movies under their belts, including Ocean’s 13, The Girlfriend Experience and Rounders. I was actually surprised to see they had written Rounders as Runner Runner feels like a Rounders wannabe in the digital age.
Justin Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a graduate student trying to make his ridiculous tuition payments by playing poker online. He also steers traffic towards an online poker site and for every player he signs up he gets a fee. His school finds out and says he’s “promoting gambling.” He decides to bet all of his savings in order to raise all the tuition money he needs from now until graduation and, surprise surprise, loses it all. Turns out, however, that he was cheated.
He decides he needs to notify the owner of the online poker site, who lives in Costa Rica (because hosting online poker is now illegal in the states… I think) in an attempt to get his money back. How he can afford to fly to Costa Rica is anybody’s guess, because I thought he lost all the money he owned in a poker game… but whatever. We’ll go with it.
He’s finally able to get a meeting with Ivan Block, the man behind Midnight Black, the online poker site where Richie lost his money. Block, played by Ben Affleck, turns out to be a swell guy. He apologizes for some programmers who cheated him, returns him his money, gives him a bonus for not squealing on the internet about it, and then offers him a job. It’s too good to pass up.
Then, quite predictably, the FBI shows up and says Block is a criminal and Richie needs to help out. Once the FBI shows up, Richie begins noticing that, yeah, maybe his boss is a criminal!
The most criminal thing about this film is that we’ve seen it all before.
It’s predictable and not particularly well written. It feels more like a Cliffs Notes version of a movie than a full movie. Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck do the best they can with the script their given but there’s just not much there. Oh, yeah and Gemma Arterton plays Richie’s love interest who works for Block but their relationship is super weak and the only reason they fall in love is because they’re supposed to. You don’t believe it for a second.
I wish the filmmakers had given us something new and fresh rather than more of the same old same old. I give it a D.