|Review by Caitlyn Thompson|
Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
Runner Runner has been labeled as a suspense drama about graduate student, Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), and his descent into a sketchy online gambling operation headed by the evil Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Laden with cliché after cliché after cliché, Runner Runner lacks a story with any depth, and the usually redeeming entertaining aspect of this gambling-trouble genre is completely absent.
A quick overview: Richie Furst needs money to complete his Masters, he plays poker online, he loses, he gets money from his deadbeat dad (of course that cliché is in the movie), goes to Costa Rica, and confronts the owner of the site, Ivan Block.
Immediately Block rewards Furst with a wealthy position in his business—fishy?
I think so.
This unlikely bond is followed by FBI kidnappings, ultimatums, flirting with an unavailable beautiful girl, double-crossing, the whole nine—WAIT—did I mention the montages?
There are several. And it was a long ninety minutes.
If there is a checklist of metaphors and warning phrases that relate to poker or gambling, each box was checked twenty times each at least. I get it, this movie involves gambling, did Timberlake’s voice over need to tell us every five minutes about “high stakes”, “last plays”, “getting cheated”, “flopped”, or putting “all the chips in”? Nope.
Accompanying the clichés is the finance and poker jargon. These monologues were inserted to promote some sort of sophistication or intelligence but it didn’t work. Characters kept talking at one another instead of with each other. It rendered everything flat and hollow.
The random funny one-liners dispersed throughout Runner Runner are misplaced and pointless. The film isn’t about the characters or stories, it’s ninety minutes of filler whose sole purpose is to get those zingers out there in the world.
The fast paced direction is supposed to create excitement but instead comes across as skittish and renders the film amateur and incomplete. Runner Runner feels like it’s hyperventilating scenes instead of fluidly progressing the plot.
Let’s get to the characters.
Richie Furst is so far undeveloped that I actually pitied Justin Timberlake. We are told that Furst is an intelligent guy—A LOT. Princeton, Wall Street, big shot gambling affiliate, his booming desire to earn a Masters in Finance. This film showcased zero of that supposed intelligence. Timberlake looked more like a dramatized doof on a comedy set ready to burst out laughing, not an intelligent business man seduced by a powerful, yet sketchy mentor.
Which brings me to Mr. Affleck.
Isn’t the head villain supposed to be suave?
I don’t know what Ben Affleck was doing except blurting out weird lines to make him seem evil. An example, “I’m a man who likes to kill what he eats.” What? What does that have to do with anything? Ivan Block is more goofy than intimidating.
I eventually started laughing and thought this could be a really fun drinking game movie.
Every time Timberlake says anything about life as a poker game, drink. Every time he’s flustered about his situation, drink. Every time a hilarious line is inserted for absolutely no reason, drink. You’ll be sloshed before it’s half over.
At least then you will be entertained.