"Runner Runner" provides the world with very little
except some great clips for Ben Affleck's eventual Golden Globe Life
Achievement reel. He's so much fun to watch as a duplicitous internet-gambling
mogul that it's almost worth slogging through all the sluggish and predictable
scenes in which he does not appear. Almost.
It's a story the movies never tire of telling: young, hungry, naïve go-getter
falls under the spell of a charming mentor, only to learn too late that the
mentor is using his protégé as a patsy while the law breathes down both their
Bing: More about Ben Affleck | More on Justin Timberlake
"Runner Runner" is basically "Paranoia" redux, only with a higher SPF.
Richie (Justin Timberlake) made a mess of things on Wall
Street -- according to one or two lines of vague exposition -- and now he's
pursuing a master's degree in finance at Princeton. The high cost of tuition has
him recruiting fellow students to online gambling sites, and when the dean tells
him to knock it off, Richie wagers, and loses, his entire stake on virtual
A campus computer expert tells Richie that he lost against
astronomical odds -- and hearing Timberlake try to speak Math gives "Runner
Runner" some of its many unintentional laughs -- so Richie takes his case to the
source: website owner Ivan Block (Affleck), who operates out of Costa Rica,
since his shenanigans would lead to his arrest were he ever to set foot on U.S.
Also read: Why doesn't Justin Timberlake hit higher notes at the
Block apologizes and offers Richie a refund, but Richie takes the magnate's
alternate offer to come to work for him. It's all fast cars and bikini babes at
first, but Richie eventually realizes, with the help of Block's ex Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), that Block's Costa
Rican empire is slowly crumbling and that Richie is being set up to take the
"Runner Runner" is an R-rated movie with the failure of nerve
of a PG-13 slasher flick; there's the constant promise of real danger, but
whenever someone crosses Block, they're more likely to be beaten up than killed.
(Even a schmaltz-covered government official gets scooped out of a river before
being devoured by crocodiles.) As the plot grinds toward the climax, the
intended suspense never surfaces; the material is so utterly familiar that
you'll see every twist coming.
Scripters Brian Koppelman and David
Levien generate a lot of tin-eared dialogue (for instance, Richie's opening
narration includes the gem, "At Princeton, you're either bred for it, or you
bleed for it"), and the miscasting of Timberlake makes the writing seem even
The singer has proven himself to be a competent actor, in
films both great ("The Social Network") and silly ("In Time"), but
here his eyes dart about and his voice comes out through his nose, and he never
conveys the slightest bit of comfort with the material.
bronzed, dressed and lit like a sex doll, and terrific character actors like Anthony Mackie and John Heard are saddled with by-the-numbers roles
as (respectively) an FBI agent and Richie's deadbeat dad.
leaves us with Affleck, who swans through the movie as though it were any good
at all, making his every scene feel funny and dangerous at the same time. His
sinister snark scores while Timberlake's mewling earnestness grinds "Runner
Runner" to a halt over and over again.
Timberlake may be the
musician, but when it comes to movie acting, Affleck proves that, sometimes,
it's the singer and not the song that matters most.
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