Runner Runner: Affleck, Timberlake Wasted

As written and directed, “Runner Runner” is a trashy crime-thriller that represents a major step down for Brad Furman, who had previously helmed “The Take” and “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

“Runner Runner” is executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who at one point might have considered playing the chief role.
My feeling is that, given the choice, the two handsome and gifted leads, Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, would remove this title from their otherwise impressive resumes.

The script is credited to the versatile Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who have penned interesting (the underestimated Solitary Man), experimental but dull (The Girlfriend Experience), and utterly commercial (Oceans 13) films, but Runner Runner is a disappointing narrative, likely to please no one.

Furman is not a particularly skillful director, but he certainly has a talent for casting “hot” actors, as he showed in assigning Bobby Cannavale (who can be seen now in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmin” and last week won an Emmy for “Boardwalk Empire”) to “The Take,” and then cast Matthew McConaughey, who elevated considerably “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

What could have been a sleazy yet entertaining film noir about a relatively new milieu, the high-stakes world of online gambling, unfolds as a formulaic thriller, poorly scripted and indifferently directed.

Affleck is either miscast or misdirected as Ivan Block, the King of Sleaze (sorry, King of Odds), living a shady life in Costa Rica.. The young Al Pacino and Robert De Niro could have played this kind of role in their sleep. Ivan is meant to be a powerful, smart and decadent, and swaggering man living.

Justin Timberlake plays the relatively better role of Richie, a Princeton University rookie who decides to take a new, risky career. (With all due respect, Timberlake may be too old to play a grad, but this is a minor complaint).

“Runner Runner” is yet another version—bargain basement—of the famous Faustian morality tale of a young man selling himself to the devil—at a price. We have seen it before in compelling movies like “Wall Street,” with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, and in seductively glitzy if shallow pictures such as Taylor Hackford’s “The Devil’s Advocate,” with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.

Nothing can conceal the emptiness of this superficial saga, which has all the ingredients for a fast-moving noir crime melodrama, a shady boss who has bent more than one rule in his favor, a sexy and mysterious femme Fatale (Gemma Arterton), who is Ivan’s right-hand woman, and a likable greener, sucked into the system.

We keep watching the flowing champagne, the easy money, the luxurious yachts, the beach parties, the sexy dancing girls, waiting for something interesting or engaging to happen, but, alas, instead of running and running, the movie takes off but after one really nearly crashes into sleazy meaninglessness.

The movie gets worse and worse as it goes along, and towards the end, when all the cards are revealed, you feel cheated.

Credits

MPAA: R
Running time: 91 minutes

Director: Brad Furman
Screenwriters: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Producers: Arnon Milchan, Jennifer Davisson, Killoran, Leonard DiCaprio, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Executive producers: Erik Holmberg, Brad Weston
Director of photography: Mauro Fiore
Production designer: Charisse Cardenas
Costume designer: Sophie de Rakoff
Editor: Jeff McEvoy
Music: Christophe Beck

End Note

“Runner Runner” earned $2.8 million o opening day Friday, with a soft $8 million expected for the weekend. “Runner Runner” cost $30 million, and it’s looking like an embarrassing misstep for a movie with two high-profile stars.