RUNNER RUNNER (R)

Runner Runner (R)

 
 
An online gambling tycoon (Ben Affleck) shows his protege (Justin Timberlake) the ropes in 'Runner Runner'
An online gambling tycoon (Ben Affleck) shows his protege (Justin Timberlake) the ropes in 'Runner Runner'
Scott Garfield / 20TH CENTURY FOX

Movie Info

    Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, John Heard, Michael Esper.

    Director: Brad Furman.

   Screenwriters: Brian Koppelman, David Levien.

    Producers: Arnon Milchan, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Leonardo DiCaprio.

A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 91 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

In Runner Runner, a Princeton math genius (Justin Timberlake) who has cultivated a lucrative side gig via online poker loses his life savings and flies to Costa Rica to confront the magnate (Ben Affleck) who may have cheated him out of his money. In its early moments, the movie evokes everything from The Social Network to Casino. By the end, the film has become as exciting as a game of Old Maid. R-rated thrillers are hardly ever this dull and listless, but this movie manages to eradicate all of Timberlake’s charisma and makes you flash back to Affleck’s Paycheck/ Gigli era. How does this even happen?

Sometimes, films just turn out wrong. Director Brad Furman ( The Lincoln Lawyer), working from a script by Brian Koppelman and David Levien ( Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen), presumably set out to make a compelling crime drama set against an unusual backdrop. What they wound up with is yet another slick and generic tale about a young man who dabbles in a life of crime, discovers it’s not for him and turns on his mentor.

Nothing in the movie rings true, not the FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) willing to break the rules in order to get his man, nor the ambiguous romantic interest (Gemma Arterton) who may be running her own scam, nor the crooked Costa Rican cops and politicians who seem to do nothing other than get drunk with hookers, smoke cigars and wait for their latest bribe money to be delivered.

Movies about poker usually like to bluff and surprise the audience. But Runner Runner, which teaches you absolutely nothing about the phenomenon of Internet gambling, doesn’t have a single twist in store. The film is so rote and transparent, you keep waiting for a big reveal or curve — something, anything, that would explain Timberlake’s and Affleck’s presence here, other than the opportunity to spend several weeks in beautiful Puerto Rico (where the movie was filmed).

Nothing about Runner Runner makes sense: Not its R rating, which could have easily been avoided with the removal of a couple of f-bombs; not the intermittent voiceover narration by Timberlake, which is used to plaster over plot holes; not even the participation of Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the film’s producers. Was this an early project he once considered starring in that just never got made? By the time characters start spouting lines such as “What are you saying? This whole thing is a Ponzi scheme?” desperation has set in. Runner Runner, which never even bothers to explain its title (it’s a poker term), may not be the year’s worst movie. But it’s a strong contender for the most boring. Here is a film in which a man is covered in chicken fat and thrown into a pit of crocodiles, and you still can hardly keep your eyes open.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">“Life After Death”:</span> Zach (Dane DeHaan) finds his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is behaving strangely after somehow coming back from the dead.

    Life After Beth (R)

    Life After Beth starts out as a cracked, comical take on Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Zach (Dane DeHaan) is a young man mourning the death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). At home, his parents patronize him and his older brother (a funny Matthew Gray Gubler) bullies him, so he starts spending time with the late girl’s family (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). Being with them make him feel closer to Beth, even though they seem to be acting fairly calmly in light of such a calamity.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Magic in the Moonlight’:</span> Colin Firth is a stage magician trying to disprove the abilities of an acclaimed psychic (Emma Stone).

    Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13)

    The inherent problem in cranking out a movie (sometimes two!) every year, as Woody Allen has been doing for the last 34 years, is that some of them are inevitably going to be dogs. Does someone have a gun to the filmmaker’s head that forces him to proceed with half-baked, joyless comedies such as Magic in the Moonlight instead of tossing bad ideas out and starting fresh? This is, at best, a 20-minute TV episode extended to feature length, and the stretch marks show. Boy, do they show. That’s practically all you can see, really.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Guardians of the Galaxy’:</span> Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt form an unlikely team of space-jockey superheroes.

    Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

    Watching the zippy, ebullient Guardians of the Galaxy, you wonder “Why can’t all comic-book movies be this much fun?”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category