So I watched Runner Runner…
I remember when this film first came out it was just after Ben Affleck had being announced as Batman. I was livid because Affleck had already destroyed one franchise in the form of Daredevil and I feared he’d do the same to my precious Dark Knight. I eventaully calmed down and decided to give Affleck a shot. This movie was part of me embracing Batfleck and like his turn in Batman vs Superman, this film is an example of a good actor stuck in a horrible film.
Okay, basic plot: Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a masters student in Finance at Princeton. Unable to pay his tuition fees Richie turns to an online casino to raise the funds. Richie is an expert poker player but ends up losing the entirety of his savings. He can’t believe his loss was just a result of poor luck and finds evidence that proves that he was cheated on the website. The website – Midnight Black – is owned by Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) – a highly successful businessman running his online gambling business out of Costa Rica. Richie takes the information to Block who is impressed by Richie’s resourcefulness and offers him a job at his company. What starts as a dream opportunity quickly turns into a nightmare when Richie discovers not only how corrupt the world of gambling is but also how devious his new employer is.
I’ve commented on this before but it still fascinates me how different a movie can look from when you watch it casually to when you watch it for the purposes of a review. It’s almost like putting on a pair of glasses and having blurry, nondescript images suddenly come into focus. Unfortunately, for this film, the image that comes into focus is Justin Timberlake’s atrocious acting in this film. I’m actually wondering if I’ve ever paid attention to any of his performances? Is he always this poor? Is it just this one film? Thankfully, he’s back to singing for the meanwhile. Timberlake’s performance is the very definition of the world ‘stilted’. I don’t think there’s a moment where he believes he’s the character he’s portraying and, as a result, there’s never a moment you believe him. His acting is flat, lacks substance, heart and any glimmer of quality. It’s a shame because I actually think he’s a great entertainer but he’s performance in this film is nonsense.
Luckily Ben Affleck is on hand to restore some credibility to the film, acting-wise. Affleck puts in an entertaining, committed performance and one that had me excited to see what he would do with Batman. Anthony Mackie has a supporting role in this film as FBI Agent, Eric Shavers. Mackie like Affleck is truly this film’s only saving grace with Gemma Arteton phoning it in as hard as Timberlake. The problem that Mackie and Affleck face is not having a meatier script to dig their teeth into. The two are clearly trying to save this film and elevate its quality but aren’t given the tools nor the time to do either.
I wish this film could have been twenty-minutes longer because it constantly feels like it’s rushing through its plot to meet some unknown deadline. Runner Runner feels like it’s perpetually summarising points instead of delivering entertaining story. I wonder if this film faced budget cuts or the studio was pressuring the director to get it out earlier than expected. It feels incomplete and sloppy. We’re never allowed a moment to reflect on things or have the tension of a scene build because as soon as a question or moment of conflict arises, it’s instantly resolved. There are no stakes in this film. No challenges to overcome. This leads to a rather spineless lead character in the form of Richie Furst who is portrayed by a toothless Timberlake. Why would you root for such a character? The answer? You wouldn’t.
Overall, Runner Runner is wasted potential. It could have been a insightful, entertaining look into the world of online gambling but decides to rather be a lethargic, apathetic description of how awful Justin Timberlake is as an actor. Not worth your time. 2/10