Director: Brad Furman
Screenwriters: Brad Koppelman, David Levien
Cast: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthonie Mackie, Michael Esper, Oliver Cooper
Running time: 91 minutes
Certain he’s been hustled while gambling for his tuition money for Princeton, marketing whiz Richie (Timberlake) jets off to Costa Rica to confront notorious gambling kingpin Ivan Block (Affleck), who he suspects is responsible.
Anyone who gets upset over Runner Runner, director Brad Furman’s follow-up to 2011’s well-received The Lincoln Lawyer, is probably missing the point. While it’s true the film lacks something of a backbone, there’s no denying the sense that it really doesn’t care. Everything in this film is designed to entertain, one way or another, and it’s perfectly content to just stick with that.
It all moves super fast, wasting absolutely no time in getting into the thick of it. Starting off akin to The Social Network as broke but brilliant student Richie Furst resorts to online gambling to pay for his ludicrously expensive tuition, before racing ahead to him shooting off to Costa Rica to find Ivan Block, played – excellently I might add – by our very own new Bruce Wayne, where he suddenly finds himself slap-bang in the middle of the FBI, mobsters and pool parties. Scenes rarely last more than a minute or two, with dialogue that rapidly explains away absolutely everything we need know. Sometimes the exposition is pasted on too thick, but it doesn’t matter all that much because again, it’s not very bothered about testing your mind, it just wants to give it the answers.
Neither is the film very interesting in stretching boundaries or exploring depths. There’s probably a Scorsese picture in here somewhere, where the beautiful backdrop would be explored and the characters fleshed out, but it all runs a very straight, narrow line, and it’s all over very quick. Running at a modest 90 minutes, it probably could have done with another 20 or 30 to beef things out a tad. There’s no real substance to any of the characters or the plot which has the potential to be a lot more intricate. That’s another thing Scorsese would have done. Yet, once again, none of this is bothersome because it genuinely doesn’t care. The film so honestly and inoffensively just wants to get on with it and waste no time faffing around with this thing or that. Sometimes that’s absolutely fine.
There’s a bit of a flashy cast to go with the flashy mise-en-scene (excuse the pretentiousness), with Timberlake, Mackie and Affleck all shining. Obviously there’s a bit of a stigma when it comes to Ben Affleck and his acting (just look at the online backlash against his Batman casting), but he really is pretty good here. I think he’s certainly improved in recent years, and his excellent directorial work has probably helped his image. Gemma Arterton, unfortunately, is a bit unconvincing. Not terrible, there’s just something not quite right about her casting. It doesn’t help that her role is underwritten, and that the film probably could have gotten away without the character.
So, not particularly much in the way of substance or originality, but it’s a slick, sexy and generally enjoyable – if unrewarding – 90 minutes.