Princeton student Richie First (Justin Timberlake) is struggling to pay for his college tuition. When he is cheated out of his life savings on an online gambling site, he heads to Costa Rice to confront the man responsible. Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) is the charismatic head of the company who lures Richie into his fast paced world of partying with lots of money. Used to a lifestyle of assessing and taking risks, Richie soon finds himself way over his head, trying to avoid ending up like his father Harry (John Heard), a degenerate gambler. Sure enough things start to go pear shaped sooner rather than later, developing feelings for Ivan’s girlfriend Rebecca (Gemma Arterton) and with FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) on his case, Richie must decide what is most important to him.
Director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) presents a dreary look into the world of gambling; what could have been a fresh and exciting script fell flat on its face. Nothing is plausible and while Richie claims that everything in life is a gamble, Runner Runner couldn’t be anymore formulaic or predictable. The story isn’t compelling, the characters completely disposable and with the majority of the film set in Costa Rica, it is jam packed full of stereotypes.
One of the film’s main shortcomings is that it doesn’t adequately explain the Block’s intricate scam, expecting the audience to pick it up with very little explanation. While this isn’t absolutely necessary in order to follow the plot it would definitely have added substance to an otherwise lacklustre script.
Leonardo DiCaprio obviously saw something in this film that audiences will not, with a very surprising producing credit. Affleck is totally miscast as the poker giant and while he and Timberlake do a decent enough job with what they’ve got, you can’t help but wonder what drew them to the script in the first place. Arterton’s Rebecca is completely vapid character, only there to cause further conflict between the two main characters.
Despite what the title may suggest, Runner Runner certainly runs out of steam way before its average climax. With superhero enthusiasts already dubious about his casting in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman, here’s hoping Affleck is saving all his efforts for Bruce Wayne.
Runner Runner is in Australian cinemas from 26 September through 20th Century Fox.