Movie Review: ‘Runner Runner’


Nick Hamden [email protected]

“Runner Runner” achieved a 2/5 by Iowa State Daily movie reviewer Nick Hamden. 

Nick Hamden

The title “Runner Runner” (Trailer) at first glance is a strange one. Initially, I figured the film would be about people who were always getting chased, on the run, cowards or a combination of the three.

It turns out it is a Texas Hold ’em term when you do not have anything good in your hand or the initial three cards on the table but gain a better hand after the fourth and fifth cards have been laid down. It is a risky situation that most poker players do not rely on, because that would be ridiculous and, more often than not, a waste of money. Let us just call it synonymous with extremely lucky and stupid. 

Enough foreshadowing? All right, plot time.

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), is a masters student in finance at Princeton. He worked on Wall Street out of college (and was about a year away from reaching that seven figure income) before it all blew up in his face, and he lost everything with the economic crash.

Because of his past, he cannot receive financial aid and has to literally gamble his life savings to pay for tuition, until he loses it all on the website Midnight Black.

According to his data and math skills, he clearly got scammed out his money, and he wants it back. So he decides to fly down to Costa Rica and talk to the website owner personally.

Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) is wanted by the FBI and is world famous for his online poker sites, but he does enjoy making his business better through smart Princeton students. He ends up offering Richie a job, and Richie starts earning the money he thinks he deserves.

Money of course never comes at a cost, and there is surely nothing illegal going on down here…

Gemma Arterton plays the one woman who has a speaking role in this film, and Anthony Mackie portrays an angry FBI agent who really wants to take Ivan down, no matter the cost.

As it turns out, my original guess about this movie was not entirely incorrect. By the end, a lot of characters do go on the run: whether it is from the law (U.S. or Costa Rican), from Ivan Block, or from other thugs. There is definitely a lot more running in this film than fighting or relaxing.

What I will say positively about “Runner Runner” is that it started out with an interesting concept and had a lot of potential. Who does not love a good story about corruption and money?

The problem lies with how fast this movie moves, basically too fast to care about any of the characters and too fast to really feel the fear of the situation they have placed themselves in.

At most I would describe the film as mildly entertaining, but I did not get any real value out of it due to how it was set up. All of the problems presented in the film were either solved instantly, or kept hidden like a “Scooby-Doo” plot point until they happened. I am not complaining that they kept some information secret, just that when the reveal happened, it was met with some mix of confusion and boredom. 

The acting was not spectacular, nor were any of the twists or turns. But I think both of those instances can be blamed squarely on the directing/editing.

The last movie the director did was “The Lincoln Lawyer,” which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, “Runner Runner” seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

I did like watching Affleck as a man too rich to know what is good for him. It is a good stepping stone before he plays Batman, another man too rich to know what is good for him.