“Runner Runner,” starring Justin Timberlake (“The Social Network”) and Ben Affleck (“Argo”) is a flashy and superficial film that never bothers to develop its characters.
The main character, Richie Furst (Timberlake), is a Princeton Graduate Student who gambles online to try and win his tuition money and ends up getting cheated. He travels to Costa Rica to talk to the owner of the site, Ivan Block (Affleck). Block is impressed by Richie and offers him a job.
From there, the movie is wholly predictable. It’s not particularly clever in the way things get resolved. For the R rating it received, it is really tame in terms of violence. It’s just not as gritty as one would expect a movie dealing with the gambling criminal world to be.
Timberlake generally has so much charisma as an actor and host (“Saturday Night Live”), but he lacked presence in this film. He’s bland to the point of being generic. Any actor could have played this role and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Timberlake does nothing to make the role his own. There’s one scene where we get a glimpse of his personality when he’s dancing at a club, but there was very little dialogue in this scene.
As for Affleck, he was definitely the highlight of the film and seemed to enjoy playing his role. It’s sort of a return to form for him because he’s played characters like Ivan Block before, but he does it well. Affleck is a bright spot in an otherwise dull film.
There’s also a subplot of an FBI agent, played by Anthony Mackie (“Pain and Gain”), trying to bring down Ivan Block. While it’s understandable why this is included in the film, Mackie gives such an over-the-top performance that it’s almost cringe-worthy. He’s not believable in the role and he certainly adds nothing to the film.
“Runner Runner” is on the whole a complete mess. The script is rushed and important things are glossed over in voice-over narration. Most of the actors in this film seem to be going through the motions for a paycheck, except perhaps Affleck. There’s nothing exciting or real about this movie and the characters have no depth whatsoever. If anyone misses “Runner Runner,” they won’t miss much.