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About the Movie
When Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) believes he’s been swindled by an online poker site, he heads to Costa Rica to confront gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the man he thinks is responsible. But Richie will soon face the ultimate power play as he finds himself caught between Block’s promises of unlimited wealth and the zealous FBI agent trying to bring him down.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 117
- Fresh: 9
- Rotten: 108
- Average Rating: 4.0/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Rotten: It feels like a halfhearted bluff and has the stale smell of yesterday's after-shave.
Rotten: The actors hit the jackpot, but only in terms of their paychecks. The audience gets a tension-free, tight-assed, Casino ripoff that leaves them thoroughly fleeced.
Rotten: Even with Affleck doing his Rat Pack best, by the end of "Runner Runner," the chill is gone.
Rotten: "Runner Runner" is less than mediocre, but it's not repellent, which means that to watch it is to root for it - and to be disappointed.
A DULL, UNEVENLY ASSEMBLED THRILLER WITH LITTLE PAYOFF
Sleek and desperately timely, "Runner Runner" puts a small cast of good-looking actors in beautiful locations. But they're stranded there without an involving or coherent story. It's a glossy, fast-paced thriller that simply refuses to establish any genuine sense of tension or danger, and the fact that the characters are paper-thin certainly doesn't do the flick any favors. We follow Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), a Princeton student who's running an illegal gambling website to fund his master's degree. But a dodgy bet leaves him in financial ruin. So he heads straight to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the online casino boss who cheated him. Impressed with his initiative, Ivan offers him a job, and before he knows it, Richie is living the high life with more cash than he can spend. Though the only thing he wants is Ivan's girlfriend/cohort Rebecca (Gemma Arterton). Then FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) starts investigating, and forces Richie to take Ivan down. None of this is remotely close to convincing because the main characters merely feel like they're being manipulated by a bland and lazy screenplay. Everything randomly happens without any sense of logic. Maybe this made sense in a longer, earlier draft, but the flick is choppy and fragmented, skipping over connective scenes as it rushes into yet another brainless showdown. Aside from greed, there isn't a motive for anything these people do. But the film doesn't even have much to say about its central theme, as it constantly celebrates flashy houses, fast cars, luxury yachts, private jets, and an endless parade of beautiful, bikini-clad girls. There's so little chemistry between anyone on screen that the over-the-top scenarios they continually get themselves involved in only grow blander and more ludicrously executed. For instance, when Agent Shavers feebly blackmails Richie into securing incriminating evidence against Ivan, it's a stupid and irrelevant plot device that goes nowhere. What a waste of talent and an intriguing location. At least Affleck brings some enjoyable, tough guy meatiness to his outrageous character, while Arterton is feisty and sassy in her thankless role. Timberlake, on the other hand, can't do anything as the poorly written Richie but simply charge around Costa Rica looking good. The basic fact of the matter is that gambling and financial crime are rarely interesting topics for movies because the stakes don't translate to the audience. I only gave this flick a solid chance due to its promising A-list cast, so I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the mediocre result. Even with all of its high-tech talk and scenic locales, "Runner Runner" just can't help but feel like the missed opportunity that it is. Is it the worst movie of the year? Not quite, but it's far from a must-see. Unless you're a huge fan of Affleck and Timberlake's acting talents (which are hardly put to good use here), don't bother watching this dully mediocre misfire.
Ben Affleck Really Needs to Stop Making Movies with Singers that Can't Act
While the premise of the movie is adequate, the scenery beautiful, the presence of an Academy Award level actor simply cannot make up for the level of amateurish performances from Mr Timberlake and Ms Arterton. The lack of character development and the actors' inability to bring the characters to life leave the viewer to not care about the story. No real suspense, no tension, no thrills. Flat.
Provides the world with very little except some great clips for Ben Affleck's eventual Golden Globe
“Runner Runner” provides the world with very little except some great clips for Ben Affleck’s eventual Golden Globe Life Achievement reel. He’s so much fun to watch as a duplicitous internet-gambling mogul that it’s almost worth slogging through all the sluggish and predictable scenes in which he does not appear. Almost.
It’s a story the movies never tire of telling: young, hungry, naïve go-getter falls under the spell of a charming mentor, only to learn too late that the mentor is using his protégé as a patsy while the law breathes down both their necks.
“Runner Runner” is basically “Paranoia” redux, only with a higher SPF.
Richie (Justin Timberlake) made a mess of things on Wall Street — according to one or two lines of vague exposition — and now he’s pursuing a master’s degree in finance at Princeton. The high cost of tuition has him recruiting fellow students to online gambling sites, and when the dean tells him to knock it off, Richie wagers, and loses, his entire stake on virtual poker.
A campus computer expert tells Richie that he lost against astronomical odds — and hearing Timberlake try to speak Math gives “Runner Runner” some of its many unintentional laughs — so Richie takes his case to the source: website owner Ivan Block (Affleck), who operates out of Costa Rica, since his shenanigans would lead to his arrest were he ever to set foot on U.S. soil.
Also read: Why Doesn’t Justin Timberlake Hit Higher Notes at the Box Office?
Block apologizes and offers Richie a refund, but Richie takes the magnate’s alternate offer to come to work for him. It’s all fast cars and bikini babes at first, but Richie eventually realizes, with the help of Block’s ex Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), that Block’s Costa Rican empire is slowly crumbling and that Richie is being set up to take the fall.
“Runner Runner” is an R-rated movie with the failure of nerve of a PG-13 slasher flick; there’s the constant promise of real danger, but whenever someone crosses Block, they’re more likely to be beaten up than killed. (Even a schmaltz-covered government official gets scooped out of a river before being devoured by crocodiles.) As the plot grinds toward the climax, the intended suspense never surfaces; the material is so utterly familiar that you’ll see every twist coming.
Scripters Brian Koppelman and David Levien generate a lot of tin-eared dialogue (for instance, Richie’s opening narration includes the gem, “At Princeton, you’re either bred for it, or you bleed for it”), and the miscasting of Timberlake makes the writing seem even worse.
Also read: Ben Affleck’s Batman Casting Backlash: Tweets, Petitions, Even a Mass Suicide Event on Facebook
The singer has proven himself to be a competent actor, in films both great (“The Social Network”) and silly (“In Time”), but here his eyes dart about and his voice comes out through his nose, and he never conveys the slightest bit of comfort with the material.
Arterton is bronzed, dressed and lit like a sex doll, and terrific character actors like Anthony Mackie and John Heard are saddled with by-the-numbers roles as (respectively) an FBI agent and Richie’s deadbeat dad.
Which leaves us with Affleck, who swans through the movie as though it were any good at all, making his every scene feel funny and dangerous at the same time. His sinister snark scores while Timberlake’s mewling earnestness grinds “Runner Runner” to a halt over and over again.
Timberlake may be the musician, but when it comes to movie acting, Affleck proves that, sometimes, it’s the singer and not the song that matters most.
- Genre: Drama
- Released: 2013
- © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.