A quick glance at the UK poster for Brad Furman’s thriller Runner Runner (2013) reveals the ideal summation of the picture itself, with its triad of absurdly good-looking stars, air-brushed to shimmering perfection. It is done to divert the audience from the fact that someone made a bet on this fragile material and lost.
The hero of “Runner Runner”, Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), is a brilliant kid who tries to win his tuition money for Princeton by playing online poker. When he realizes that the game is rigged, he flees to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). He’s a vaguely mythical gambling mogul, and allows himself to be seduced into the high life that Block offers.
“Runner Runner,” is filled with lush views of tropical beaches, expensive parties and sumptuously beautiful but barely characterized women. It’s the kind of genre that might be passable if the people involved in making it had given the plot and ending the same thought and concentration as the set-up.
The screenplay creates scenarios and then forgets about them. They make Ivan enigmatic and elusive at first, then make him completely available when the story demands it later. Coincidences, such as the occurrence of a very convenient gambling exhibition, serve as substitutes for twists, while clumsy action scenes are crammed in. None of these actors, including Anthony Mackie as the FBI agent, can make anything out of what they’re given. Someone made a bet on this fragile material and lost.
At the end of the film, we learn that Runner Runner is executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s a man who knows how to get a piece of the action while maintaining his own name at a safe distance. The suckers on camera are the ones who get stung.
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