I like to approach watching Ben Affleck films as if they’re all going to be Gigli, that way I’m never really disappointed and, if it turns out to be The Town or Argo, then my mind is suitably blown. With Runner Runner though, taking this stance is probably a good one, because although it’s not mind blowing, it’s no Gigli either, it’s just…average.
Burdened with constantly rising student loans and the prospect of expulsion from Princeton University for his role in an online gaming site, college student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) risks his entire life saving on the site which could have him expelled, in order to win his college tuition. When Richie realises the site has cheated him of his winnings, he arranges a face-to-face with the man behind the site, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), but Ivan’s money and charm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
This is a solid film, but that’s all it is…solid. It has little pockets of laughter, the action is ok, the suspense is ok, the acting is ok…it’s just all ok. There’s just nothing stand out about this film at all and the ending, whilst predictable and typically Hollywood will leave you suitably satisfied that everything’s been rounded up nice and neatly.
Justin Timberlake, is surprisingly good, obviously working with legend Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve, worked well for him. His role as financial whiz kid Richie Furst is likable, and almost makes me forget he’s awkward sex scene with Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, although he still has leagues to go to prove his acting chops. However, he is believable as a naïve kid, who just wants to get rich quick, and believes his boss is the nurturing mentor he’s always wanted.
Seasoned pro Ben Affleck though, holds back a little. You get the feeling he just wants to let Ivan Block go from Mr Nice Guy to complete psychopath, but he is restrained, in an uptight way. You hoping Ivan just goes completely nuts, so the at least with a simple, predictable ending you’re left saying…well you did deserve it you crazy bastard…but no it falls very short.
Even Gemma Arterton, usually a stand out in the likes of Tamara Drewe and Quantum of Solace, who plays Richie’s “love” interest, is neither outstanding nor terrible. She plays the ‘is she or isn’t she’ trustworthy role with effortlessness, perhaps maybe just a little too much effortlessness. Like Affleck, she misses the mark of truly making you wonder whether she’s in it for the cash or the love of a good man.
Like I said this is solid. It will probably be one of those films you’ll watch on DVD one quiet Saturday night and you’ll be satisfied it was a good choice in the end.
– Suzanna Parisi, DB Magazine