Rating: 2 stars out of 5
'Runner, Runner' is a crime thriller set in the world of online gambling. Justin Timberlake stars as Richie Furst, a Princeton Masters student who gambles to pay off his college tuition fees.
Threatened with expulsion, he makes his way to Costa Rica, determined to give the king of online gambling, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), a piece of his mind for cheating him.
From there, Richie gets sucked into the world of criminal gambling, and when he tries to dig himself out of the hole, he sinks even deeper.
The film's title refers to the way a hand is won in Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, where the player must catch the last two cards to make a hand. But the show never quite manages to capture the intoxicating effects of gambling, nor does it hook you into its story.
The highlight is a scene between the two male leads, where they have a man-to-man talk before Richie quickly becomes Ivan’s protege. When Richie finally gets the chance to play in the big leagues and roll in their circles, the film races along so fast, subsequent plot developments never get the time to breathe.
Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck star in a thriller that quickly runs out of steam.
Scene settings constantly flit from super high-end luxury parties and yachts to gritty barrios, trying to evoke a sense of excitement with an offshore gambling conglomerate, high-rollers, glitzy parties and black money.
Yet the film, which is directed by Brad Furman and co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, lacks real finesse or style, and its potential is never realised. It is hardly intriguing and very forgettable.
Timberlake looks the part as an Ivy League-type jock figure. But after a while, his wide-eyed, eager-to-please character starts to grate. It's also impossible to take his poker face seriously, as he turns in an unconvincing and flat performance.
Perhaps he should just stick to making brilliant pop music, burning up the dance floor and appearing on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' or 'Saturday Night Live', where his charm and comic talent are put to the best use.
If anything, Affleck is the only one who is watchable in this film. His detached demeanour and restrained persona as Ivan is miles away from the typical, slick, Gordon Gekko-type antogonist he could have easily chosen to portray. For naysayers still opposed to him playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the sequel to 'Man of Steel', this should convince them of his potential.