The world of online gambling is a pretty mass enterprise totalling the in the millions and dare I say billions, and I guess it was only a matter of time before someone made a thriller about it all. "Runner Runner" is what I like to call the Vacay film, where you get to shoot in an exotic location for a certain amount of months...so who really cares if the project is any good.
In "Runner Runner", Princeton grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake), believing he's been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Richie is seduced by Block's promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.
When you are trying to make a sexy, pulp filled action thriller you really have to commit whole hog to the material in order for it to genuinely work and "Runner Runner" just didn't put in the effort to sell any single part of it. Director Brad Furman coming off of "The Lincoln Lawyer" can certainly shoot the hell out of a film and maximize the sun drenched locations that he shoots in, but it all feels like an exercise in over stylization. The film follows the look and mold of other crime thrillers before it, but there is never any genuine connection to the material as it all looks like that the story and everyone involved in it is simply going through the motions The script from the writing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien truly does run through every cliché in the thriller handbook bringing nothing new to the table at any time in the film. The territory of gambling that they mined pretty effectively in "Rounders", lacks the same draw and pizzazz as that film since the characters are nearly as well defined and left lifeless on screen.
Justin Timberlake has shown more than enough ability to carry a film in the past but this dull script really didn't do him any favors as he goes through the motions of a man who keeps getting knocked down by society looking for his one chance to get what is his. It's less of a performance and more of playing to the archetype of what the hero is supposed to be like in a movie like this. Ben Affleck with a great villain name like Ivan Block, really played it all a little too seriously and had they steered this film towards a more campy territory it could have been pulled off as a fun action/thriller romp. Anthony Mackie is pretty terrible as a hammy FBI agent who is looking to get his man by any means necessary, John Heard shows up as Richie's dad but that story never really goes anywhere. Gemma Arterton really only fits the bill as the sexy Rebecca who falls for the idealistic and driven Richie because she needs an out from Ivan's duplicitous world that he has built around them.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are just fine and the special features include a Blu-Ray exclusive "House of Cards" inside the world of online poker and deleted scenes.
Ultimately, "Runner Runner" throws some interesting things on the screen, but rather then go anywhere interesting or entertaining, they just kind of sit there. And while the ensemble cast may have gotten a good tan on this shoot, nobody walked away from this dull and lifeless project better off than they were before they signed on to do it.
2 out of 5 stars.