Runner Runner

WRITTEN BY: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
DIRECTED BY: Brad Furman
STARRING: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie
RATING: 1.5 stars
Boring and predictable. They are two of the worst words a film maker would ever want used to describe their film. Unfortunately, those are the exact words to describe Runner Runner. Written by the men who wrote Ocean's 13 and directed by the man who gave us The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner lacks the thrills that those films generated. It is a film about the seedy world of online gambling but there is hardly any suspense at all and no likeable characters. Runner Runner is only 1.5 hours long, and yet, I kept looking at my watch every 10 minutes waiting for it to end.
When gifted Princeton college student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is caught breaking college rules with his gambling operation, he bets all of his savings on an online poker game to cover his college fees. But he loses everything in an apparent scam so he travels to Costa Rica to confront the owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Block returns the money to Richie but also offers him a job that is too good to resist. Soon, Richie is submerged in Block's gambling world and falls for Block's girlfriend Rebecca (Gemma Arterton). But as the violence escalates and the stakes get higher, Richie realises there is more to Block's gambling business than he first thought.
Affleck has certainly copped more than his fair share of criticism over the years and is these days more respected as a director than an actor - which is why there was such an outburst about him playing Batman - but he was actually the strongest actor in this film. He was at times quite funny, particularly in one torturous crocodile scene. Meanwhile, Timberlake was annoying and his character was totally unrelatable. As the film's hero, audiences should feel sympathy for him, but I could not care less. Arterton was also one-dimensional and her character lacked development. Anthony Mackie plays a hard FBI agent trying to bust Block. He was good in parts but seemed to over-act in other scenes, although the mediocre dialogue could be blamed for that.

Poker is about assessing the odds and taking risks. Unfortunately, Runner Runner had a bad hand and could not bluff its way out.