Review: Runner Runner


Director:Brad Furman

Cast:Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie

Running Time:91.00


Runner Runner is the slickest piece of garbage you'll see all year. It looks really pretty but doesn't contain a single original thought. It's a huge embarrassment for Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck and should ensure that Gemma Arterton will never be a star in America. 

What's most egregious is that the film thinks it's smart and clever but it's dumb as a box of rocks. It's filled with historical references but also hampered with clumsy voiceover laced with poker references. It doesn't trust you to realize Timberlake has a plan to get out of dire straits; he has to say in voiceover that he has a plan.

But how did he get there? Well, far too quickly, we're introduced to Timberlake at Princeton, on the verge of graduation with a mountain of student debt. He's also on the verge of expulsion for promoting a gambling website he frequents. He, for absolutely no reason, decides to gamble his life savings in an effort to graduate debt-free and ends up losing it all. Thanks to a friend in the analytics department, he determines it wasn't just bad luck; it was cheating. 

So instead of trying to find some sort of logical recourse, he flies to Costa Rica to confront the site's owner (Affleck). He's supposed to be an ultra-bad guy, but he's neither menacing nor seductive enough to be convincing. Gustavo Fring he is not. After two brief meetings, Affleck not only pays Timberlake's gambling debts but also offers him a job. Anyone could see this is a deal with the devil--except Timberlake of course.

Instead of simply following the story until Timberlake gets in over his head, the film introduces an FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) to blackmail him to bring in some dirt on Affleck that can be used in court. So now he has to play both sides and convince us he's smart enough to pull something like that off. But he can't. I think Timberlake's a fine actor, but he's just not good here even though the script should carry much of the blame.

One of the biggest reasons the film falls apart is that there's never any sense of danger. Affleck feeds one guy to a crocodile, but that's the only evil thing he does. The longer the film goes on, the more bored he looks. There was a possibility of a juicy villain role, but Affleck seems more put out than terrifying. 

There's absolutely nothing I can recommend about Runner Runner other than how beautiful the locations look. But maybe that means you should just keep your $10 and start saving for a Costa Rican vacation instead of spending it on this dreck. 


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

Leave a Reply