Review: Runner Runner

Director: Brad Furman
Producer: Leonardo DiCaprio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie


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Princeton grad student Richie, believing he’s been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block. Richie is seduced by Block’s promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.



Runner Runner ain’t no stunner. In fact, it isn’t even vaguely pretty. They say you can’t always tell a bad movie from a good during pre-production and filming…this is the only reason I can think of for the impressive cast not running away from the script. Bulging with clichés – gambling to aid education fees, the guy gets the girl, police corruption, good guy (sort of) saves the day. Yawn.


Gambling, among other things has a connotation with excitement. The buzz you get when you play, and when you win – if you’re lucky enough to, is a great natural high that was not translated onto the screen at any point. Everything happened so quickly in the film, but not in conjunction with the flow of the story; it seemed rushed but unintentionally. It was sloppy and poorly directed with little artistic flare and nothing exceptional that would make this a blockbuster hit.


From the start Runner Runner is far-fetched. Richie, a college student from Princeton (played by JT) miraculously manages to blag his way into one of gambling God Ivan Block’s notorious parties in Costa Rica. Hmm. Ok. Their brief meet the following day on Ivan’s yacht immediately turns into a business pact. You can see where the quality of the plot is going…





The relationship between Ivan and Richie is a little strange throughout – at no point does it feel natural. Richie as the main protagonist is pretty weak, I think it had the potential to encompass more depth; he never really stuck with an emotion and held no unique characteristics, making him unmemorable. This is not just down to poor casting with the Trousersnake, but also because there is not enough character focus. To be honest, all of the characters were on the surface, which is sad considering the impressive cast. Anthony Mackie played an unconvincing cop what was a bit all over the place, while Gemma Arterton, who although got the sexy vixen thing down, threw the look of lust / bedroom eyes one too many times, immediately converting this from charm to cheese. I feel like neither characters developed very far, or had much soul, making it tough for the audience to grow any attachment to.





On this one, we have to praise our future Batman for saving the day. I don’t want to think how much worse the film could have been without BAffleck’s presence. It was great seeing him play a cocky douche, and he completely embraced the character, doing a gambling God justice. He had the powerful, sexy, smarmy down, and killed it as a cool, calm, collected wise man.





Runner Runner as a whole contained too many accessory characters with not enough focus. The acting was definitely not any of the actors’ strongest performances; there was an air of forgery between the actors, and script – which felt really underdeveloped. One element that did stand out in the film was the soundtrack. A collection of well-chosen music that was fitting to the imagery and story was about the only thing that created something remotely close to suspense.


The setting: charming Costa Rica, a huge gambling business run by gringos, illicit activity, yachts galore, millions and millions of dollars, drugs, threats, bribes, and sexual tension. Breathe. You would think that there was room in almost two hours to create some suspense with all the above. I’m confident enough to say no, not once was I drawn in, or sitting on the edge of my seat desperate to see what was coming next.


It was fuelled with too many bribes, too many unnecessary characters, and too many quick switches. Two of the most memorable parts of the film, sadly, were seeing actors from two of the world’s greatest shows, Louis Lombardi (Skip Lipari: The Sopranos) and David Costabile (Gale Boetticher: Breaking Bad) feature. Unfortunately for them it’s laughable to even consider Runner Runner and either of these shows in the same thought. Overall I feel like the film wanted to be bad-ass, and perhaps it could have been if it was approached in a different way, but with this end result I’m afraid it’s not.



 I give Runner Runner 4.5/10


About Andrea Lestrange

I love to write about different types of film - from blockbusters, to indies, and documentaries. I enjoy exploring and discussing different themes and angles, with a light-hearted edge to keep things fun. I am based in London, and currently looking to pursue a career in the film industry.