Starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, and Gemma Arterton, "Runner Runner" is a 2013 crime-thriller drama directed by Brad Furman, who is also responsible for "The Lincoln Lawyer," released in 2011.
The movie is written by well-seasoned cowriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the same duo who wrote the movies "Rounders" and "Ocean's Thirteen" as well as the "Runaway Jury" screenplay.
"Runner Runner" is refreshingly straightforward in its plot, and the lead character is thrown into the melee right away. Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is introduced to the audience as a Princeton graduate student who recently lost his job on Wall Street. Lacking the funds needed for his matriculation at the Ivy League school, Furst uses his financial savvy to run an offshore gambling website called Midnight Black. Furst appears to be enjoying a high degree of success working as a middleman in the gambling outfit owned by Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) in Costa Rica.
In an opening scene, even Furst's professor is spilling money into the online casino games. "Runner Runner" is aptly named, as Furst is constantly moving from one scenario or idea to the next. The plot is propelled forward quickly. When a fellow student incurs a large gambling debt using his father's credit card, Furst is brought before the dean at his college. Furst has no choice but to shut down the gambling site, but he still lacks the $60,000 for tuition that's due the following week. Furst decides to bet his entire savings on one all-or-nothing bet. He loses the bet and all his money. After figuring out the crucial bet was rigged, Furst gets the idea to travel to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block. Suddenly, Furst finds himself surrounded by the luxury and glamour that swell around Block. Block's is the lifestyle Furst imagined for himself when he was a big shot on Wall Street. Block's extravagant lifestyle is matched only by his extravagant personality.
Affleck wears the role of a gaming tycoon with questionable business dealings and sociopathic tendencies like an eel wears its skin. Easily shifting from suave conman to street thug, Block sees opportunity in Furst's capabilities and intelligence, so he persuades Furst to work for him. Then again, Furst doesn't need much cajoling, and "Runner Runner" doesn't allow characters much time to mull over a prospect anyway.
"Runner Runner" is somewhat reminiscent of the movie "Wall Street," with Ivan Block taking the place of Gordon Gekko, pulling a Wall Street wannabe under his wing and introducing him to the soul-crushing gambling industry. Furst is naïve, and he gradually becomes corrupted by Block's influence, money, and dealings. In the beginning, he was convinced his hands were clean because he never actually handled money from the people gambling on the website. He merely lured them to the site to gamble. After a little time with Block, Furst's ethics are dwindling, and he finds himself falling into a virtual vermin pit. One lesson Furst learns is that everyone has a price, and everyone includes him.
The film doesn't leave the viewer to ponder Furst's morality for long. He begins to fall for the beautiful Rebecca (Gemma Arterton). Before long, she is his entire focus. However, Rebecca belongs to Block. Her role in the "Runner Runner" plot is limited in that she doesn't have much to do other than stare and smile at Furst while balancing her relationship with her psychotic boyfriend at the same time. As Furst spends his time concentrating on his dream girl, Block sends him on increasingly dirty and illegal jobs.
Meanwhile, FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) is trying to recruit Furst to help him take Block down. Ivan Block's demise is an obsession for Agent Shavers. As if there aren't already enough storylines packed into this ninety-minute film, the audience meets Furst's father, Harry (John Heard). Harry turns out to be a raging gambling junkie. At the start of the film, Richie Furst was a brilliant, ambitious man trying to get through college using a method he convinced himself was innocent. By the end, the same man is battling for his very conscience. In many ways Block is more dangerous than his pet crocodiles. Furst has to decide whether he is the same caliber of criminal as the notorious Ivan Block or if he is a person worth fighting for.
"Runner Runner" boasts nonstop action, plot twists, and the excitement of the gambling scene. Add to that a humorous FBI agent, a gorgeous woman, a sociopathic criminal, and some man-eating reptiles, and it equals a thrilling adventure. This movie entertains till the very end.