Runner Runner is No Reason to Run to the Theater
A suspense movie about internet gambling doesn’t really make for great suspense.
In this movie, Princeton student Richie (Justin Timberlake) is a college student who pays for classes by online gambling. When lady luck fails to help him out, he travels to Costa Rica to meet the online mastermind he thinks swindled him Ivan (Ben Affleck). Instead of just shooting Richie in the face for daring to go after him, Ivan decides to take Richie under his wing and teach him the tools of the trade. Things are going swimmingly, until a mystery woman Gemma (Rebecca Shafran) comes between them.
The movie is well cast. Timberlake makes a great young hot head who quickly gets in over his head. Affleck seems to have a way of playing characters with skewed moral compasses and he plays his part well. However, when it comes to mystery woman Gemma, viewers are probably going to wonder what all the fuss is about. She’s about as flat and generic as any ‘seductive woman’ character can be. In the end, you’ll actually hope for Ivan and Riche to get together and let Gemma walk off into the sunset on her own.
Cinematographer Mauro Fiore, whose past credit include Avatar, certainly knows how to take advantage of a beautiful location. The scenery was beautifully handled, in a way that actually took over the movie a bit. For a while, I sat back and pretended I was watching a really high-end travel video. [more…]
Of course, when it comes to protagonists, the scheming FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie), plays the part well and his determination to take Ivan down doesn’t feel forced. Unfortunately, Affleck’s character seems to be the most well-rounded in the movie and after a while, the other characters start to fade into the background.
Also, weirdly, for a movie that was supposed to be about online gambling, there is very little gambling. In fact, the lead character Ivan could have easily been a drug kingpin or arms dealer and the movie wouldn’t have changed at all.
Runner Runner was directed by Brad Thurman, the same creative genius that brought us The Lincoln Lawyer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get the same level of creativity and suspense into the plot of Runner Runner. In the end, the movie was really nothing but yet another generic crime drama about corrupt officials and the people that pay them off.
The film boasts a solid cast, and great cinematography. However, the lack of a fleshed out plotline really makes the movie fall flat. After starting out well, the movie falls into a standard mix of the young, idealistic man struggling in a strange place and slowly learning the man who hired him is a sociopath. This plays out over and over and over again until you actually hope that Richie is the next one to get thrown to the crocodiles.
Runner Runner could have been a great movie. It had a good premise and a great cast to back it up. Unfortunately, lackluster writing and a redundant plot make it nothing to run to the theater about.
Enjoy the trailer.