Princeton grad student Richie, believing he's been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block. Richie is seduced by Block's promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.
Even the title is bad. ‘Runner Runner’ might have looked good on paper, especially when director Brad Furman (‘The Lincoln Lawyer‘) hired Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, and Gemma Arterton to star in this online gambling thriller. Unfortunately, it’s 90 very long minutes of laughable, cheesy dialogue, zero notable characters, and virtually no suspense, with the exception of a short scene involving crocodiles. The setup is decent enough, but the movie is poorly executed on all levels.
In a ‘Social Network’-like set-up, we meet Princeton student Richie Furst (Timberlake), who’s been threatened with expulsion unless he shuts down his online gambling business. Richie is smart, charismatic and driven to win. In order to pay for his tuition, he bets his life savings on an online poker tournament. He loses, but he and a fellow engineer figure out that he was cheated. The man responsible is Ivan Black (Affleck), the kingpin of online gambling, and he resides in Costa Rica.
Even though Richie is supposedly penniless now, he can still afford a plane ticket to Costa Rica with the hopes of running into Ivan and exposing him. We’re told that Ivan is extremely difficult to get to. (He’s described as Oz, the man behind the curtain.) Well, luckily, Richie is Justin Timberlake, and it only takes him a few hours to get face to face with Ivan. When Richie confronts him about his shady site, Ivan invites him onto his huge yacht and offers to pay him what he lost, even to pay for the rest of his tuition. He also tempts Richie with a job that could earn a potential eight figures in the first year or two. The dialogue here sounds very similar to lines Affleck previously delivered in ‘Boiler Room’.
Richie accepts the offer and stays in Costa Rica, but later is picked up by an FBI agent named Shavers (Anthony Mackie), who informs Richie about Ivan’s criminal history. From here, Richie starts to figure out how truly unscrupulous and dangerous Ivan is, as if the backdoor dealings, blackmailing clients, and even torturing people weren’t enough clues. Richie must try to escape with the help of Ivan’s right-hand-woman (Arterton), who seems to be playing both sides.
‘Runner Runner’ suffers from a slow pace and lack of suspense, which is bad news for a movie promoted as a high-octane thriller with fast cars, fast boats, and bad guys. While, yes, it has all of that, at no point do we feel worried for the characters. Every actor might as well wear a blank mask, because no emotion pours out of them, aside from the rare instance when someone yells at someone else. Timberlake and Affleck are likable on screen, but suspenseful thrillers are not Timberlake’s strong suit, Affleck seems to be coasting, and Arterton is only here to look pretty.
This film is better left to cable, where you can view it for free. Even then, you may want your hour-and-a-half back.
'Runner Runner' has a very good 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Despite the film itself being terrible, the image is quite nice throughout. The detail is very sharp and vivid with well-defined closeups of each actor's face that shows their stubble and makeup blemishes. Some of the wider shots tend to go soft, but it's nothing to write home about.
In fact, some of the location footage is beautiful to look at. Colors are well-saturated and often has a brighter and warmer glow to the image in select interior scenes. The skin tones alway look natural and the black levels look very deep and inky. There is an organic quality to the image as well with no flaws or compression problems to speak of. I only wish the movie itself was this good.
This release comes with a decent lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, but I think it could have been better. For an action thriller, the sound is front heavy here. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand with no evidence of any pops, cracks, or hissing. It's the sound effects and ambient noises that aren't up to par.
There just isn't a whole lot of noise coming from the rears at all, except for the score and soundtrack. The hits, kicks, casinos, and parties all did not have that fully immersive robust sound that action movies usually have. The fidelity is very good and the dynamic range is wide, but not where it should be. Like I said, this is a decent audio presentation, but it could have been better.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 11 mins.) - There are seven deleted scenes in total that don't add a whole lot to the movie.
House of Cards - The Inside Story of Online Poker (HD, 17 mins.) - This had the potential to be a very cool extra, as it discusses how the online poker business boomed several years ago, but became illegal. The cast and crew talk about online poker game along with some law enforcement.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Runner Runner' is a sad excuse for a movie that the trailer depicted as a heavy action thriller. If you choose to see this, or if you already have seen it, you know that isnt the case. Awful dialogue, sub-par acting, and a lack of anything really interesting make this an epic failure. The video and audio are pretty great, but the extras are less-than-amazing. If you happen to love Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake so much so that you can't breathe well at night, then give this a rent. If not, skip this one all together.