Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) used to have a job on Wall Street until the economic meltdown forced him out of the business. To make his way back up to a high paying job again, he refers university students to an online gambling website to finance his masters degree. After getting caught and threatened to be kicked out of Princeton, Furst carelessly bets his money away on an online poker site with hopes of gaining enough winnings to pay his tuition fees. He soon discovers that he had been beaten unfairly and goes straight to the source to rectify it, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).
Runner Runner was probably the longest hour and a half film that I’ve sat through this year, which says a lot. It’s disappointing as the film has a promising premise. The opening initially set up the potential for a decent flick but its intelligent characters ultimately didn’t fit in with the shallow narrative.
The film could have been genuinely thrilling as it had the ingredients for an explosive thriller. It had interesting characters and an uncommon premise. But the film feels bland as it has no particular direction or form of development. Ultimately it’s a film telling a series of events. What it needed was more emphasis on Richie and even Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), as the film covers the themes of greed and entrapment within the criminal world. They grow as characters but Runner Runner doesn’t even explore these themes or even the development of these characters. In the end we don’t really know who Richie is.
He’s obviously attracted by the prospect of high finance and because of that he doesn’t do the most ethical things. Although he believes in fair gaming in the business sense and is also a business wiz, yet we see him partake in immoral forms of business negotiations. There’s contradictions in his values because of money. So I was expecting some form of change from his character once sh*t got real, but only until he sees his life in danger does he change, but that’s a totally meaningless reason. The only meaningful moment in the film is when Richie’s dad tells him to leave him behind since he’s been a “dead man walking for 15 years”. That is the only defining moment where Richie realizes greed’s negative effect. But by that time, it’s way too late.
The only positive within this film is Gemma Arterton (duuh) and the locations. Both are stunning and sun kissed. The cinematography is colourful and glossy which make’s Runner Runner easy on the eyes. That being said we should have seen more of Arterton, not because she wears those dresses flawlessly (probably accounts for quarter of my rating) but because I think her character could have had a bigger impact on the story. Though it still would have taken more to improve this flick.