The world of gambling has been the backdrop for many great crime thrillers.
I was intrigued with the notion of Runner Runner, a story about the dark side of online poker.
Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton headline a strong cast that sadly goes to waste thanks to a script that feels under developed, formulaic and loaded with lazy clichés.
Justin Timberlake has proven himself to be an above average actor with his roles in The Social Network, Southland Tales and Alpha Dog but here he is just bland and uninspiring. Even though his character, Richie, is poorly developed and rushed through the convenient paces of the story, it is obvious that he could have done more with it. On the flip side of this coin Ben Affleck plays Ivan Block who, despite the characters Bond villain name, is the best thing going for this film. Ivan Block is an online gambling king pin and all-around scumbag of a guy. Affleck plays the role with zeal and charisma, overcoming some truly cheesy dialog to put this film on his back and do his best to carry it for the full hour and a half. Between Richie and Ivan is Rebecca, played by Gemma Arterton, in a role that serves nearly no purpose at all. Rebecca is at best a walking plot device and at worse useless eye candy. It’s a waste of talent but then again that seems to be the case with everyone in this movie.
Most of all Runner Runner feels like a wasted opportunity. The concept is good, the cast is strong, the movie is set in Costa Rica but was filmed in Puerto Rico and visually it looks great.
There is only one problem, the script is a disaster. The first act is more like cliff-notes theater, rushing to get Richie into place with Ivan, the conclusion plays out in all too familiar fashion and the entire thing is loaded with plot holes that the script is too lazy to deal with. This is a thriller that has very little in the way of thrills or suspense. Runner Runner is better served as a late night time killer on the couch once it hits cable.
I would not suggest spending your money at the cinema on it. Run away and watch Rounders instead.
-Review by Brian Rohe