Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is a former Wall Street raider, drained of his fortune by the Great Recession, but is now a struggling Princeton grad student just trying to pay his tuition.  Richie is doing this through online gambling.  I'm not quite sure of the particulars in this, though I'm sure it was explained to me in this film 'Runner Runner', but it has something to do with referrals or whatnot.  Regardless, Princeton doesn't like this and demands that Richie stop doing this, which leaves Richie to take his remaining loot, go online and try to gamble his way to pay for his tuition.  That's what Richie decided to do.  He loses his money, but it wasn't fair.  Richie's a Princeton grad and stuff, which means he's like super smart and knows super smart people so he had the numbers crunched and the differential sequential statistical improbabilities just didn't add up.  So if you get you cheated online, what do you do?  You fly out to Costa Rica and confront the Billionaire owner of the website that beat you, is what you do.  So far this movie isn't making any kind of sense in any kind of world that I can remotely relate to, but it's all good.

Getting close to reclusive billionaires isn't as easy as it seems, but with a little gumption and the help of a pretty lady named Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), Richie has an audience with Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).  Ivan is impressed with young Riche.  First he was smart enough to crunch the algorithm to figure out the website was cheating its customers, which Ivan claims ignorance of, then he was kind of enough not to broadcast this information, all of which leads to Ivan giving Richie a plum gig in his gambling operation.

So far for Ritchie, this is a dream come true.  He's getting paid, he's living large, Ivan seems to trust him and he's doing his bosses girl as well.  You can't beat that with a stick.
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But not so fast my friends!  First there's over-the-top FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) who likes to have people punched in the face, kidnapped off the street and then mercilessly threatened to convince them to turn on Ivan Block whom apparently is breaking all kinds of laws.  Ivan, for disclosures sake, can't come back to the United States, for the moment he steps on U.S. soil he will be arrested and tried for all kinds of crimes against humanity.  Then it gets worse for Richie as his boss sends him on errand runs which result in Richie getting his ass kicked.  Apparently this is part of the job, which Ivan justifies by making the point that Riche makes a lot of money so he better get used to it.  There are other people in other lines of work who make a lot of money that don't require one to get brutalized on the street, but who am I to argue with Ivan Block?

It just gets progressively worse for Richie at this point, as he has learned some rather unsavory things about Ivan, but Ivan isn't one to hedge his bets and has a little insurance to keep Richie in line in the form of his gambling addict father (John Heard), and the authorities are really putting the pressure on.  Ivan has a plan to clean up his mess, and Richie the sucker is a big part of this plan.    Richie has his own plan.  Who wins?  Well, one thing I've learned by watching this movie is that the house always wins.  I know that has nothing to do anything, but I had to squeeze that in somehow. 

Director Brad Furman's 'Runner Runner' is one slick looking movie with its great visuals, lavish locales, fast cars, pretty women, good looking dudes and seedy subject matter, but ultimately it's all a fairly mediocre affair.  As a thriller, it's a mediocre one if for no other reason, at no point, did I ever feel that the character of Richie was ever in any danger.  As a morality play it doesn't improve that much because Richie didn't endear us to him all that much where we were all that concerned about the bad decisions he was making.  The fact that I didn't care about Richie all that much is acerbated by the simple fact that Ben Affleck's villainous Ivan Block was the far more interesting and engaging character.  

This leads us to another problem with the movie, and not to upset Justin Timberlake any more than he already is, who seems like a nice young man, but I'm not sure he's proven he can really carry a movie.  At least not the way his character was written in this one.  The character was too wishy washy.  Is he dirty or clean? Self-serving or benevolent.  Since the character didn't commit to anything it was difficult for the audience to commit to the character.   And Gemma Arterton is really pretty and looks great in a tight red dress.  Otherwise she contributed next to nothing to this film.

'Runner Runner' wasn't a complete waste of time, but outside of a fine smarmy performance from Ben Affleck, there's not a lot about 'Runner Runner' that was all that memorable. 
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