Runner Runner is one of those stylish thrillers that promises more meat than it ultimately delivers. Fashioned as an updated version of Wall Street, but set in the world of online gambling, the plot takes predictable twists and turns, and never delivers a satisfying original payoff.
When Ivy League student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) loses all his money in an online poker scam, he travels to Costa Rica to confront the site’s mysterious owner, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). As it turns out, Block offers him a job, and a chance to earn millions, if he’s willing to sell his soul. You know exactly how things will pan out from here: the kid is first seduced by the glamorous lifestyle and the lure of easy money. When he realizes he’s being played, he decides to take matters in his own hands. There’s a woman in the mix too, as there always seems to be; in this case, former Bond girl Gemma Arterton sandwiched between veteran and rookie.
The film doesn’t work because there’s nothing new in the manner that this plot unfolds, and there’s not much by way of chemistry between Affleck and Timberlake’s characters either. What you do get is lots of gambling jargon, and a by-the-number screenplay.
I’m going with two out of five for Runner Runner. It’s the sort of film best enjoyed on DVD. If you have to take a call during the film, don’t worry; chances are you’d have missed nothing.