Most people understand that gambling is pretty risky. However, for ages people have trying to find a way to beat the system, to keep ahead of the game, and to give them an edge over the competition. This is where the idea of counting cards comes from. That practice is frowned upon but there are other ways to win. Knowing percentages, playing statistics, following numbers, this is how players get their advantages now, but it takes an extremely careful and skillful player. You gotta know when to hold ‘em and to know when to fold ‘em. Yes, I did in fact just quote Kenny Rogers. Now, most people don’t have the brain power to keep these numbers straight in their head. Those that can can end up making a lot of money, but the risk never truly goes away.
The risk deep down is probably the reason why most people gamble. Not to win. The risk keeps people playing the game. The chance to put everything on the line and still come out on top is very alluring. This is, however, the reason why people consider gambling an addiction. You can never have enough, especially when it all waits for you right outside your finger tips. In Runner Runner, the audience gets an up close viewpoint of just how alluring it can be to have everything right in front of you. It’s hard to say no.
In Runner Runner, we follow Richie Furst, (Justin Timberlake, Friends with Benefits) a Princeton University grad student with a special ability to play the stats in online poker. The risk proves too much for him though when he is cheated by an online backdoor program and he loses his tuition money. Furst proves this is what happened and takes his evidence to the programs owner, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck, Argo), who lives in Costa Rica. Block is impressed by Furst’s skills and replaces the money that was cheated from him while also offering him a job. Of course, Furst accepts the temptation and positions himself into an even deeper situation. While the two become close, Furst learns that the FBI is investigating Block. In the beginning, Furst is loyal but slowly begins to discover the true character of Block. Eventually, the duo reaches a breaking point and Furst learns that Block is attempting to frame him for the shady business he’s been practicing for nearly a decade. Quickly, Furst needs to find a way to expose Block otherwise he ends up being faced with the biggest risk of his entire life: losing it all.
While I believe this film is successful in becoming a suspenseful, dramatic, crime thriller. In the end, I can’t say it did a whole lot for me. Successful, rogue gambler gone haphazard hero is a plot I’ve seen a few times before and I haven’t really been able to keep my eyes open since. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re looking for a film to watch while folding laundry, this will suffice. Just don’t expect it to be something you’ve never seen or heard before. There is one aspect of this film I think Brad Furman got right, however. This would be the dichotomy between Timberlake and Affleck. First and foremost, Affleck plays a really believable skeezy bad guy. My guess is that it’s due to his Jersey accent but I can’t help but hate the guy. Maybe it’s just because of Daredevil or the fact that he was selected to play Batman in Batman/Superman (or what I like to call B/S because well, it is) over anyone else. I’ll just have to move on from that though.
On the other hand, Justin Timberlake is literally the Golden Boy right now. Everyone loves him and while his acting is a B at best, he does a fair job at getting the audience to love his character. Who doesn’t want to be the charming, smart, number cruncher who wins all the money, am I right? This pairing doesn’t make me love the movie any more though. It’s just too hard to get past the unlikely character choices that keep the plot moving. This is where I end up being lost. In the film, Timberlake completely forgets about Princeton which he just gambled everything in order to finish. On the other hand, Affleck spends his spare time feeding crocodiles like some sort of cheesy Bond villain. Also, I’m sure the elaborate detail and cryptic statistic talk is going to lose its fair share of movie goers if they are only going to see pretty man faces. Timberlake just might need a few years of practice before he can safely pull off the mysterious, economic guru. Watching them both really just made me feel dirty, like having an affair with drug money kind of dirty. I would have been happier if I got to see someone dive into a pile of gold like Scrooge McDuck.
After watching Runner Runner and realizing it’s a plot that’s been done before, I really can’t speak to highly of it. It’s just too dull. If you only want to see pretty faces then maybe give it a try. The film is about gambling in the end and might be worth the risk. Unfortunately, I lost, and the house always wins.
I give the film Runner Runner 2 out of 5.
by Jason Burleson