After the financial crisis halted a meteoric rise to the top for Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake – The Social Network), he now finds himself struggling to pay for college. He decides to take drastic steps to make big money and gambles on a famous website. However, he soon notices that a strange pattern in house-betting causes players, including himself, to lose all his money. Rather than take this to the authorities, he decides to bring this accusation directly to the elusive head of the gambling empire, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck – Argo). Exiled from America but still making a killing in online gambling, Block is one of the FBI’s most wanted men. Block likes Richie’s guile and enterprise so offers him a job with his organisation. But with great wealth comes great danger as Richie is soon to find out.
Runner Runner doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it tells its tried and tested story with enough style and panache to keep you pleasantly hooked. We’ve seen it all before in projects like Casino but Runner Runner knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be. Loud, brash and very stylistic, it perfectly conveys the scripts’ principals of desperate hope, obscene wealth, high stakes gambling and corruption with knowing guile.
Justin Timberlake has made some good choices of late and has proved that he possesses the acting chops to last in this industry. The talented young performer excelled in The Social Network, Inside Llewyn Davis and Friends With Benefits whilst impressing alongside Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curve. Runner Runner doesn’t demand too much of its lead but Timberlake still delivers to make the role of Richie relatable and sincere. You never lose sympathy with his character and are right with him, even when things start to go south.
Every time you see Ben Affleck on-screen now, you can’t help but say “that’s the new Batman” under your breath. Affleck has hit home runs with every movie he’s tackled lately (revisit The Town and Argo for proof) so it’s nice to see him doing these types of roles between the heavy, Oscar worthy projects too. Affleck enjoys a rare bad guy role in Runner Runner – one that he clearly relishes too. Having fun with the material at hand and easily pulling off the suave danger associated with Ivan Block, Affleck enjoys this freedom and uses it to good effect. He also shares a sparkling chemistry with Justin Timberlake which makes their characters’ exchanges very watchable on-screen.
The supporting cast are all fine with ‘it girl’ of the moment Gemma Arterton easily holding her own against Hollywood’s golden boys. John Heard does well in a small role as Timberlake’s father whilst Anthony Mackie chews up his scenes as a clichéd FBI agent looking to bring down Block’s regime.
Runner Runner may play by the book but it’s a fun ride to take all the same. The ingredients are there for a tense, exciting and enjoyable caper with great performances aplenty. It keeps you hooked and offers plenty of good exchanges, especially between Affleck and Timberlake. Perfectly forgettable and the epitome of popcorn-munching fun, you can do a lot worse than Runner Runner.