On Friday, a movie by the name of Runner Runner dropped into multiplexes across the country. If you’ve already seen it, I sympathize with the pain you must’ve endured.
Running time: 91 min.
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton
For those fortunate enough not to know of this ghastly second-rate caper, allow me to clue you in. Runner Runner stars Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst, a Wall Street number-cruncher turned Princeton grad student who gambles his life savings of $17,000 over online poker.
Furst hopes of winning enough money to fund his Ivy League tuition, but like most players, he loses it all.
But here’s the twist: he believes he was cheated.
So like any rational human being, the grad student gallivants down to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), the manipulative mogul behind the duplicitous site. Since this is a movie, Block offers Richie a deal: either take the $60,000 he’ll need for school and head back home, or stay in Costa Rica to help run the company and make millions doing so.
Naturally, Furst chooses the latter.
Generally this is where I would go on for another 400 words packing as many punches as my editor would permit me. However, today I’m offering up something different.
Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t see Brad Furman’s new dizzying disaster of a film:
- It’s about nothing. Or rather, if Runner Runner is about something, it surely doesn’t make clear what that something is.
- The screenwriters for the script, David Levien and Brian Koppelman, are also responsible for an exponentially more intelligent and insightful poker film, Rounders. Please seek out that 1998 gem instead.
- Speaking of which, the two poker scenes I counted in this movie don’t capture how exhilarating and nerve-wracking card playing can be.
- Devoid of panache, the dated screenplay is about seven years late. It believes online poker is a salient issue akin to the government shutdown.
- The film’s maxim is amusingly silly: the world is one big poker table and everyone is always risking or gambling something. If you’re not, you’re not living.
- Every character speaks in clichés. There are no conversations in this movie — just long, histrionic monologues about nothing of interest.
- If you’re too busy to pay attention to the movie, no worries, Justin Timberlake’s stupefying narration has you covered.
- The one female character who is not a stripper or prostitute is underwritten as a drab romantic interest for both Richie and Ivan to fawn over.
- An FBI agent played by Anthony Mackie enters the film at about the halfway mark, threatening Richie with exile if he doesn’t cooperate. This is bizarre for a number reasons: 1) What jurisdiction does an American agent have in Costa Rica? 2) His methods of forcing Richie into helping him (i.e. holding him up at gunpoint) are highly illegal. 3) This character – who is actually interesting – suddenly vanishes from the film for about 25 minutes without a trace.
- Lastly, considering how remarkably simple the story is, Runner Runner is one convoluted slog of a movie. Worst of all, none of what we’re shown on screen amounts to anything. It’s a detached, emotionless cinematic experience inhabited with nihilistic knuckleheads we couldn’t conceivably begin to empathize with.