Not terrible, but far from good. Runner Runner takes on the tantalizing premise of a Princeton kid trying to get his money back from an internet gaming casino which has unethically used an algorithm to ensure he couldn’t win. The kid is played by Justin Timberlake, and the internet mogul is played much better by Ben Affleck, whose character Ivan Block is hiding outside of U.S. jurisdiction in Costa Rica. He likes the balls on the kid, so he offers him a job as his marketing consultant.
It’s a dirty job, as in immoral. And yet we only get a couple of scant scenes of the kid Richie performing the job – we’re not exactly sure what he’s supposed to do there, except get seduced by wads of cash and by a vixen played by Gemma Arterton. The script by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (“Michael Clayton”) has some sting when it comes to Richie’s scenes with Ivan Block. But lots of the movie feels like rehash elements from genre predecessors: Flashy money, easy babes, crooked ethnic associates, video surveillance used as blackmail, and the itchy FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) who is desperate for a kid like Richie to be his informant.
My interest was held for most of the time, I wasn’t watching with an unaffected feeling. Part of the problem, however, is that Timberlake is doing an all too apparent acting job here, looking the same as always and playing a variance on his own unruffled cool cat persona. Affleck looks like he always looks like, too, but there is heft and authority to his performance – it would be interesting to see him at his age go back and re-do his corporate shark role in “Boiler Room” (2000).
Then there’s Arterton, a sophisticated beauty, who has slept with Ivan but now takes a sweet liking to the kid – this is forced by the screenplay because none of the behavior between her and Timberlake is convincing. I kept wondering if she was just using him as part of a scheme. But really, it’s not hard to see that “Runner Runner” all in all is lost in its own scheme of overwrought melodrama.
91 Minutes. Rated R.
THRILLER / GAMBLING / MATINEE SAVER
Film Cousins: “Casino” (1995); “Croupier” (1998); “Two for the Money” (2005); “21” (2008).