“Runner Runner” is about a brilliant Princeton graduate student, (Justin Timberlake), who throws it away for the chance to work for a poker kingpin (Ben Affleck).
Here are the pros and cons of “Runner Runner.”
- PRO: Justin Timberlake. He’s charismatic, handsome and, man, does he have cute hair.
- CON: Justin Timberlake. JT’s so busy being JT that he neglects to form a character for this film. He walks into a party in Costa Rica, a fleeting look of amazement on his beautiful face, and you have trouble buying his expression because you know Justin Timberlake’s been to cooler parties. His voice is magical, he walks with a JT swagger so much so that I expected him to break into dance at any moment. This is notable only for the fact that Timberlake is a much better actor. In films like “The Social Network” and “Alpha Dog,” he completely commits and delivers. In “Runner Runner,” no such luck.
- PRO: Very strong cast in Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie.
- CON: The cast has little chance to deliver. Affleck seems to be playing a caricature of a villain. I hate to repeat myself, but he’s also better than this. In “The Town,” Affleck plays a crook with a conscience with great intensity and humanity. In “Runner Runner,” his character is so one-dimensional and stale, I feel like he had trouble executing a character of little to no depth. Gemma Arterton is striking, and plays her part with one moment of depth. Anthony Mackie is believable as an FBI agent determined to win at all costs. Here, I felt some intensity, but to an almost comical level.
- PRO: Locale. Most of the film takes place in Costa Rica, and director Brad Furman seems to really give film-goers an authentic view of the glitz, glam and the parts tourists don’t see.
- CON: “Runner Runner” was filmed in Puerto Rico.
I may just need to go to all cons here.
The screenplay, written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, was a bit too obvious. In one scene, Affleck is feeding poultry to crocodiles and to them he says “good luck, sir,” as Timberlake approaches. Affleck tells Timberlake that all casinos say “good luck, sir” to their customers, but what they really mean is “(Expletive) you, (expletive).” Spoiler alert: The last thing Timberlake says to Affleck when he’s taken away by the FEDS?
“Runner Runner” is filled with set-ups like this, and I attribute that and possibly the less-than-par performances to the writing. The big reveal at the end felt forced and was, I think, shooting for “Ocean’s 11″ proportions.
I’m kinda ripping “Runner Runner” a new one, but criticisms aside, it was nice to be transported into a life of excess, if for only a mere moment. Though, this was a vacation from which I was more than happy to return.