Directed by: Brad Furman
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie
Runtime: 1 hour 31 minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Quick! Name your favorite film about an innocent man caught in a web of lies and deceit where he has both bad guys and good guys knocking at his door wanting him to do their bidding because they have some sort of leverage over him? Some quick suggestions would be films like Rounders, The Firm, L.A. Confidential and countless other films, most featuring a detective or innocent third party that is hired to investigate a person and eventually becomes the suspect themselves and blah blah blah. It is a movie formula used a lot in film noir, but many other modern films use that same formula to tell other similar stories, almost all involving conspiracies and/or crime.
The new film Runner Runner starring Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton is a film that follows that formula to the tee, to its detriment unfortunately. While the cast is every bit capable and the locale of Costa Rica is very pretty in its sun drenched beaches and neon colored city nights, the more the film follows that formula, the more it begins to lose all the momentum it started with and the more we begin to check out watches.
The early parts of the film are somewhat promising. Dealing with an online gambling site called Midnight Black which is of course under investigation by the FBI, there is a sliver of an idea worth exploring as our main character (Timberlake) finds himself ostensibly kicked out of college for "directing" traffic to the site for a small fee of which he then uses to pay his tuition. We then discover along with him that the site isn't exactly on the up and up, so he heads down there to confront the owner of the site (Affleck) so that he can get back his money that he himself lost on the site gambling.
The swerve that happens, which in hindsight doesn't make any sort of sense, is that when our hero gets down there and confronts him, he immediately starts working for him and doesn't ever look back. To put into perspective how out of left field this development was and how out of character it is, Timberlake was looking to pay his way through college in a legal manner despite the company he worked for. Sure it was a little shady, but never once do we get the impression that he is on the lookout for a quick and easy way to the top. Even worse is that for someone as smart as he is supposed to be (he did crack the website's algorithm which not even the FBI could do), he never once realizes what he is getting himself into.
You combine that with an extremely formulaic plot that you can see the ending to a mile away and what you get is a good looking film filled with good looking people, but not much else to keep you invested in anything that is going on. This one really comes down to whether or not you want to see the film just for the actors, in which case you won't be saddled with a complete piece of garbage, but you will likely come away from the experience feeling hollow and very unfilled. That's what Runner Runner seems to be geared towards though, so if that's your thing, have at it. Everyone else, steer clear.
While there were plenty worse films released last year, Runner Runner has the distinction of being that sort of in the middle type of bad. It isn't good enough to become a sleeper hit and it isn't bad enough for people to take time to point out how bad it is, which just leaves it there lingering in limbo waiting for anyone to give a shit. Save your time and money and avoid this one.