By Laurie Coker
Watching Runner, Runner, I waited for someone or something to run, and it never happened – no characters, no scary animals, no speedy cars and especially not the storyline. Apparently, “runner, runner” is a poker term, or so I learned, but I saw little poker either. Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck star in this mediocre, sometimes fun, decently acted, but relatively unremarkable film.
Runner, Runner sends messages about gambling and crime we have all heard before, but thankfully, its stars make it watchable. Timberlake stars at Richie Furst, a mathematical wiz, who pay his way though Princeton by peddling online gambling. When the dean gives him an ultimatum, he risks his last penny to gamble for his education. Cheated by the site he knows is owned by Ivan Block (Affleck), a man banished to Costa Rica for several crimes, he risks everything to find a way” in,” to let Block know about the cheat. He does and shortly after Ivan makes him and offer he can’t refuse, thrusting him in to an illicit, sometimes violent and outlandishly glamorous life in Central America. An exotic beauty, Rebecca Shafran, Block’s partner (Gemma Aterton) catches Richie’s eye, an FBI agent stalks and threatens him, and he discovers secrets that put him and others in danger. Nothing feels fresh here, except for the cast and the audacious and alluring depiction of life on the lamb for the rich and infamous.
Timberlake does what he does well, but it took me a bit of time to warm to the idea of a soft-spoken, cordial Affleck as a hard-core, seemingly volatile bad guy. His demeanor demonstrates too many subtle nuances of niceness, but still, I like him and toward the latter scenes, he becomes slightly more menacing and detestable. Aterton’s stunning beauty and smooth accent plays wonderfully in the glam environment and the chemistry between her and her leading men sizzles.
Leaving the screening I reasoned that Runner, Runner might make a decent rental for a night in with a partner or friend, because it entertain me well enough, but never rises above average. With this in mind, I give the R-rated film a C-, no higher. I do wish Hollywood would stop rehashing tarnished storylines, unless filmmakers can figure out a way to put a brilliant shine on one.