Runner Runner has certainly been dealt a favourable hand with its release date. There are few more talked about stars in the world right now than the film’s two leads, with Justin Timberlake set to release the second volume of The 20/20 Experience, and Ben Affleck’s recent casting as Batman still stirring rage among fanatics. It’s a shame then that their superstar status has been utilised in such a lifeless, paint-by-numbers thriller as this.
The film opens with Richie Furst (Timberlake) studying for a master’s at Princeton. He’s an exceptional student (or so we’re repeatedly told), but has to pay for his tuition by way of online gambling. When his luck runs out and his future at university is thrown into doubt, he decides to jet off to Costa Rica in the hope of coming face to face with millionaire Ivan Block (Affleck), the kingpin of online betting. From there, it’s The Devil’s Advocate all over again, with Richie quickly discovering that there’s a darker side to Block’s exotic lifestyle.
That’s a promising enough premise, but both the direction and the script squander any potential. Runner Runner passes methodically from one scene to another, its flat style and familiar plotting failing to muster even an ounce of tension. Give this movie to a more talented filmmaker, and the world of moneyed excess and glittering parties could become a visual feast. Director Brad Furman seems content to just point the camera at things.
More worrying are the film’s politics. Costa Rica is portrayed as a hell hole of criminality, where every man is a corrupt cop and every woman is a scantily clad prostitute. Gemma Arterton (the one female with a speaking part) isn’t served any better. To term her character a “token love interest” would be overstating it, yet even this completely arbitrary role is rendered somewhat pointless by the complete lack of chemistry between her and Timberlake.
Whether he makes for a good Bruce Wayne or not remains to be seen, but Ben Affleck is Runner Runner’s one saving grace. He radiates a great air of obnoxious entitlement and positively outshines everything else on screen. Timberlake rather pales in comparison, but does his best with a one-dimensional character. In any case, both actors certainly deserve far better material than this.
Runner Runner is released nationwide on 27th September 2013.
Watch the trailer for Runner Runner here: