Justin Timberlake plays Princeton University financial student Richie Furst. To put himself through college, Furst promotes a gambling website. One of the school's deans finds out what Furst is doing and shuts down his business. Needing a bunch of cash to pay for tuition, Furst goes onto the poker site he promotes and gambles.
The site does some mathematically incorrect things, or in more blunt terms, it cheats and Furst ends up losing all of his money.
Ivan Block -- done very nicely by Ben Affleck -- owns the site. He's considered a criminal, is living in Costa Rica and cannot return to the United States. He's also filthy rich.
Furst -- who is first (pun intended) and foremost a gambler -- heads for Costa Rica to see Block, tell the man how his site cheated him and get his money back. Surprise, surprise -- he gets the meeting. Furst, who was an up-and-coming Wall Street whiz before the crash, impresses Block, who hires him to do this task and that for oodles of money.
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Of course, he's being set up. But that's the fun of these movies, right?
Or at least in this case. Soon after accepting the gig, Furst is leaned on by an FBI agent done by Anthony Mackie (Pain & Gain). Torn between loyalty to a boss who isn't loyal to him and duty to country, Furst does what all great American movie characters do when faced with that dilemma.
He takes care of himself.
Runner Runner features a terrific performance from Affleck, who shines as a villain. Charisma, a killer smile and ice cold eyes help sell the character. Villainy in this case is of the TV infomercial variety. Slick but not very deep.
Timberlake suffers a similar fate. Furst is as bland as movie bland gets. He has zero personality, zero charisma and you have zero reason to care that he's been bamboozled by the best.
Supporting players Mackie, and Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), who does the love interest thing, have little to do as well. Both are boxed in by their cliche and very limited characters.
Runner Runner is supposed to be a thriller but is devoid of thrills or any kind of tension that makes you worry that Furst might not survive the conflict. Paint-by-numbers filmmaking and writing from director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) and writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Ocean's Thirteen) don't help. None of the characters goes much deeper than those found in a pulp fiction novel, and the film's climax is one of the lamest done by a thriller in years.
Director: Brad Furman
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Gemma Arterton, John Heard
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated R for violence, language, some nudity and mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.