To be quick and basic about this film review, Runner Runner is a hot mess. The story of a gambling-savvy Princeton student who goes to Costa Rica when he feels like he has been cheated while playing online poker, is far too fast and very much underdeveloped.
The pace of this film is way off, and there are large gaps where we, as viewers, are left wondering what is happening, and how things have progressed so quickly. The protagonist, played by Justin Timberlake, goes to Costa Rica to complain about the discrepancies he found in the gambling website, and before we can blink, he has a job with the site, is able to bring his friends down, is making tons of money, and is basically the #2 man behind the leader of the site and central villain, played by Ben Affleck. Then with lightning speed, he is in trouble with the FBI, there are some foggy details about what the site is doing to cheat its players, and Affleck is turned from smart businessman to evil genius in the turn of a script page. Throw in a less-than-believable love story, and the film is complete.
One of the biggest errors made by the producers of Runner Runner is that there was a lot of detail that would have been really interesting to know about. Tell us more about the way the site works, how the odds are made and defied, how one would launder money, etc. I felt left wanting for all of these things, because they would have made the movie a heck of a lot more detailed, and far more interesting. I am tired of having these details brushed over, and we are just supposed to believe that the things he is doing with money is bad. This comes across as treating the audience as an uneducated group.
The acting is poor through the majority of the film, as well. Timberlake, who has become one of the more likable celebrities out there, has shown that is able to act, but he needs to stick with roles based on humour, like in a romantic comedy. Consider how he has pretty much become the best Saturday Night Live host over the past few years, and then try and make him act serious. It doesn’t work. Gemma Arterton, the love interest, while attractive, came across as a completely flat character. Affleck, who is one of my secret favorites, is only okay with a thin script that he is given. When he yells, he is convincing, but let’s be honest: this role is not one that as much depth to it, and it is basically calling for him to be cool, then mean, then yell. Then be more mean, and yell some more.
Runner Runner tries to have a little bit of Rounders in it, and a little bit of 21. But it falls flat on both of these attempts. With the short running time (about an hour and a half), there simply isn’t enough time to develop anything: the plot, the characters, the background information. For this reason, you can probably skip this film and find something that is of a similar subject, but done much better.