Verdict: 2 / 5
Rule number one for any thriller is that the audience should never be smarter than the characters. Unfortunately, Brad Furman’s Costa Rica-set Runner Runner, a consistently by the numbers low-risk thriller, is filled with generic characters who often find themselves making the most implausible decisions. Perhaps Ben Affleck is enjoying a break from directing and starring in Oscar-related material, but that’s no excuse for how average Runner Runner is. You know the plot. You know the characters. You know the outcome. It’s watchable, but completely forgettable.
Justin Timberlake clumsily portrays Richie Furst, a bright Princeton student who, after losing his life savings online, flies off to Costa Rica to confront the owner of the poker site, a ruthless jet-setting businessman (Ivan Block played by Affleck) who owns a criminal empire (including a hand full of goons). Soon Richie is under Ivan’s wing, making millions, angering FBI agents, living the life and kissing up his boss’s girl. There are no brownies for guessing how the rest of the plot plays out.
Affleck bosses the screen, delivering the film’s only semi-decent performance. Timberlake still hasn’t got the chops to play a lead character and is better suited for roles where he is in a supporting role. Gemma Arterton, however, is a fish out of water, playing the love interest. All she offers here is lip pouting and sexy stares, which often become uncomfortable. Whatsmore, her character’s onscreen relationship with Ritchie is completely boring and unbelievable.
Runner Runner is best described as a “wanna-be”. It wants to be as cool and sexy as Bond. It wants to be as fun and entertaining as Boiler Room. It wants to be as clever and exciting as Oceans 11. But fails miserably on all accounts. It’s just painfully average and predictable.