Runner Runner was a film I actually intended to see a few weeks ago, when it first came into the cinema. However, circumstances changed and I didn’t find the time to see it until now. Although, now having seen it, I’m not overly disappointed that I waited. Whilst enjoyable enough this isn’t a film you will leave feeling blown away by.
Runner Runner features Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst, a student at Princeton studying his masters in Finance after losing his high flying job on Wall Street due to the economic crash. Richie is paying his way through school by working as an affiliate to an online casino. Told to stop doing this or get out of the school he risks it all and bets all of his savings on an online poker game. Losing the game, he suspects he’s been cheated, proves he has and decides to fly to Costa Rica to inform Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), owner of the online gambling site. Things transpire and Richie ends up working for Block. That’s a very quick summary without much detail …
The issue with this film, is that it there isn’t much detail, and it all happens very fast. Everything just happens all too easily without a great deal of explanation. Richie just hops on a plane, lands in Costa Rica, conveniently runs into some guys he works for and ends up at a party. At said party, he conveniently runs into Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton) who works for Block and gets him into another party, where he then finds it incredibly easy to get in front of Block. This all happens in about 5-10 minutes. It moves the story along nicely, but possibly a little too quickly. This film is only an hour and half, and usually the cry is for a film to cut out scenes, but with Runner Runner I feel like maybe an extra 15 minutes could have been put into the film to make it feel a bit more real and give me something to get my brain going. Especially as at least 5 minutes throughout the film is spent panning over locations, such as beaches or casinos, when that time could have been spent on developing the story.
The acting in the film is good for the most part. Justin Timberlake has proven that he can act and is not just a singer who is trying to act, with a good performance in The Social Network and now this. Ben Affleck plays Ivan Block very well, and nicely works the slippery personality of a shady crook who lives the high life, laying on the sleazy charm and almost sarcastic friendliness before angrily snatching it away. As I have said in a previous post, Ben Affleck gets given a hard time, but I actually quite like him, and think he’s pretty good (discounting Daredevil of course!). Gemma Arterton is okay, but doesn’t seem to be naturally compatible with either Affleck or Timberlake’s characters, and at times feels like the lines are being forced.
As the title of the review says, this film just doesn’t feel quite right. The reason being, that I think it actually underestimates itself. I feel that the film had potential to be a lot more engaging, by maybe being a little more intellectual. Now I don’t mean that this is a dumb film, what I mean is that there are elements of the plot that could have been investigated further and added more detail to it, rather than just having things happen and moving onto the next plot point. I think the film just needed to have a but more confidence in itself to express this and little more confidence in the audience that they would respond to it. I went in expecting to have to think a little bit, or try and work a few things out, but that isn’t the case.
But, as the title of the review also says, it was close enough. The film is enjoyable and the story is interesting, if not a little over simplified. And I did enjoy it … which is the main thing. There are better films in the cinema to see, and this isn’t a classic. But would I watch it again? Probably. If rolls around onto Netflix next year and I’m at a loose end, yes I probably will. At the end of the day, if I would consider re-watching a film, it hasn’t done too bad a job.
This had the potential to be little closer to “21”, another gambling film which starred Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess, released back in 2008, (which is very good) but Runner Runner chose to aim a little lower. Still, not a bad effort and a pretty good film.
A respectable 6.5/10