By Joey Sack 10-10-13
When I first heard about “Runner, Runner,” I didn’t have high hopes for it. I thought it looked like your typical, run-of-the-mill crime thriller with some big name actors like Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck in leading roles. And while it is rather cliché and a bit simplistic, it’s enjoyable enough.
The film stars Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst, a graduate student at Princeton University. Furst directs people to online gambling sites, and receives a commission for the traffic that the sites get. He then realizes that he needs more money to pay for his tuition, so he gambles his entire life savings, only to lose it all because people were cheating. Not about to let his life savings or his life be destroyed, he travels to Costa Rica, where head honcho Ivan Block, played by Ben Affleck, has set up shop, in order to get his money back.
One thing that threw me is the inconsistent use of off-screen narration and some of the technological lingo and gambling gibberish that I missed. The off-screen narration was used a lot in the beginning, sparingly in the middle, and a bit more near the end. I would’ve preferred some narration at the beginning to set up the story, and some narration at the end to wrap up the story.
Justin Timberlake is decent in this movie, though I thought that his character, Richie Furst, changed sides pretty quickly. He goes down to Costa Rica to get his money back, confronts Ivan Block, and almost immediately is offered a job, which he quickly accepts. I would’ve liked to see more of a slower thought process, where he went back and forth for a few hours or a day at least. But the film is only an hour and a half long, so they did what they could.
Ben Affleck portrays an enjoyable villain in this movie as the devious and manipulative Ivan Block. He reminded me of Jay Gatsby: an evil, sadistic Gatsby, who got everything that he wanted. He was a generic bad guy, but he was entertaining for what he was. He was smug, charismatic, and could be pretty funny at times. As clichéd as this movie was, the cliché qualities in Ben Affleck’s character didn’t bother me that much, and that made him very enjoyable.
One character I really enjoyed was FBI Agent Shavers, played by Anthony Mackie, who was serious, but sometimes overly serious, which I thought made him pretty funny. He also seemed to be having fun with the role, and that meant that I had fun watching his performance. The other characters were decent, but not very memorable.
When I walked out of the movie theater, I didn’t feel like I had wasted 90 minutes of my life. I enjoyed the film for what it was.