The idea of Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake going mano-a-mano in a dialogue-heavy battle over morality and the like sounds fascinating -- previewed in the Runner Runner trailer. The morals at odds have to do with gambling and how with the arrival of the internet, the ability to do that “sin” has become easier and easier with time.
Online gaming sites have proliferated the World Wide Web and sit firmly as the center of Runner Runner plot. Although let’s be clear… it never tries to preach or pontificate about the evils of betting, it just circles it like an airplane waiting to land.
Timberlake is a graduate student who is on the verge of not being able to attend school anymore due to financial issues. He’s a wizard at casino gambling, so he figures an easy way to make the tuition money is to head online and take care of business. The reality is that he feels he played fairly and that he should have won. But, that’s not what happened. Not only did he not make the money necessary to stay in school, he completely lost his shirt.
Feeling the website he gambled on is rigged, he heads down to the Caribbean island where it is headquartered in an effort to get his money back from its owner. Affleck is the owner, and before we can get into screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s story that appears to be a revenge tale… it jackknifes into a story of greed, excesses and the American dream and how it is achieved, circa 2013. Timberlake is wooed by Affleck’s world and finds himself sucked into the middle of it.
There’s another facet of Runner Runner that you won’t hear too much about here, but it is led by Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). It is where our thrills come from -- so, instead of a revenge thriller, its scope is much deeper and frankly, more suspenseful as such.
Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) directed the film and it looks slick, has solid pacing and one can not only see the easy lure of online gambling, but the toll it can take on those who are held in its grasp. It doesn’t go deeply enough to make any kind of statement. Perhaps that is on purpose and the Runner Runner reason for existing is pure entertainment. And on that level… it delivers.
Affleck (fresh from his Batman casting) and Timberlake make a decent tandem and each appears to enjoy playing off the other, although explosive fireworks between them are few and far between. Our Runner Runner review can state that the movie is a fun ride -- it just leaves you wanting a little bit more.
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