Runner Runner is a poker term referring to when a player needs the cards on the turn and river to win the pot. I’m pretty sure any poker player knows the term quite well and for non-poker folks, I’m sorry I couldn’t explain much better than that. I consider myself to be a pretty decent poker player, yes I’m one of those people who watch poker tournaments on TV and have played the game online and at casinos. So this film peaked my interest just a bit, I thought it would dive into the world that not too many people know about; sadly though, the film never delivers on its intriguing premise.
The film starts out with a Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) meeting with the Dean of the school. He’s been busted for running an online gambling at the school and the Dean order him to shut down the site or get expel from the campus. Richie is in a huge debt, you see he worked at Wall Street for a few years but when the economy went south, he lost his job and his seven figures salary. He wants to get a Master Degree in finance so he can get back on his feet again, unfortunately he doesn’t have enough money to pay for the tuition. So with only about $17,000 left in his bank account, Richie decided to play poker online with all of his savings and hoping he would win enough money to pay for his tuition. Unfortunately he loss all of his money but he realized he was cheated. So he decided to travel down to Costa Rica to confront the man who runs the poker website, Ivan Brock (Ben Affleck). Ivan agreed to meet with Richie and he was impressed with Richie’s talent, he decided to offer him a job of running his casino in town, of course being broke Richie took the offer right then and there. Richie also met up with Ivan’s girl Rebecca Shafran (ex-Bond girl Gemma Arterton). There’s this love triangle storyline between these characters that never fully developed.
After a couple of months of enjoying the high roller life in paradise, Richie was suddenly captured by couple of thugs and brought to an FBI agent Shavers (totally miscast Anthony Mackie). Shavers wants Richie to be a mole for him, he wants to bring Ivan’s operation into a halt. Richie of course refused so Shavers threatened him by saying he could be ban from entering the States and spend most of his life in prison down Costa Rica. With no choice Richie decided to come up with his own plans of escaping the authority and Ivan’s empire. The rest of the film was about Richie trying to outsmart the FBI and take down Ivan his own way, there’s no payoff or surprises, pretty generic thriller recipe that’s been done way too many times in other and much better films.
This was the first of Timberlake’s film that I saw with him as the lead and I don’t think I want to see anymore of him. He’s good as a supporting character, I liked his take on Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s way out of his comfort zone here as the leading man. There were a couple of scenes that if I were the director, I may have slapped him silly and get fired because he cannot convey the emotion that those scenes required. Affleck on the other was having fun playing the villain and he chewed up his scenes to the max. Unfortunately though, his character was pretty one dimensional and any decent actor could’ve been good in the role. I don’t know why Affleck accepted this role, maybe he’s a good friends with the director or maybe he wants the studio behind this film to finance his next film project. Arterton didn’t have much to do but being the eye candy and love interest. I mentioned earlier that Mackie was a total miscast, he’s as believable as an FBI agent as me being a QB in the NFL.
I’ve never seen any films of Brad Furman, apparently his last film The Lincoln Lawyer was pretty descent but I thought he did a poor job here. He’s one of these new crops of young filmmakers who thinks by shaking the camera, even during dialog scenes, would make the film exciting or intriguing. Seriously these guys needs to stop doing that, I’m so sick of hand held shaky cam style of filmmaking. He also copied the look and feel of the film from other directors such as David Fincher and Michael Bay, yeah I know why anyone would copy Michael Bay’s style is beyond me. As for the screenplay, it wasn’t anything special. It’s a generic plot that we’ve seen many times before, I’m actually surprised that the script got made into a big motion picture, I thought it’s better suited for a TV movie of the week.
This was a missed opportunity to tell a good story about poker gambling and how it can ruin people’s lives, instead they decided to just turn a good premise into a silly and boring thriller. With a weak leading man, script and uninspiring direction this is a rental at best. My generous 2 stars is for the beautiful scenery and cool soundtrack.
2 out of 5 reels
Well, what do you think of this film and/or the cast?