It’s a film that tried to replicate the dangerous thrills of the casino life in the up-to-date environment of illegal offshore online casinos, featuring some of the biggest and most well-respected young movie stars right now. But did Runner, Runner live up to its high expectations?
Justin Timberlake plays the star role of Richie, a Princeton student who faces money problems stemming from student debt – a situation many can relate to – who uses his intelligence to gamble online. But when he loses all of his money in a game, he is certain that the website cheated him and flies to Costa Rica to discuss his problems with the owner of the site. Enter Ben Affleck, living the Playboy lifestyle, who takes a shine to young Richie and offers him either his money back, or a job at his side. How could Richie resist?
Of course, things are not all well. Much like land-based illegal casinos, the element of criminality is unavoidable and Richie soon finds himself in over his head, and in love with a beautiful young woman played by Gemma Arteton. Unfortunately the FBI has been tracking Affleck’s character Ivan Block for some time, and begin closing in on Richie to become an informant, which means turning on the increasingly-dangerous mobster.
Runner, Runner was written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the duo who penned the TV poker series Tilt, the gambling drama Rounders and the film Oceans 13, and was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg. Directed by Jon Turtletaub who has worked on Cool Runnings and National Treasure, they received additional help from the professional poker player Phil Laak who consulted on the piece and also appears as an extra in one scene.
After the award-winning spectacular of Argo, some fans were disappointed with Ben Affleck’s acting abilities and felt that it was a step-down in quality for the actor. Conversely, Justin Timberlake was praised for his charismatic portrayal of Rickie who is incredibly similar to Timberlake’s The Social Network character. Audiences who expected to learn more about the illegal online gambling industry, and maybe hoped to pick up some gambling tips to increase their skills on Gaming Club, were probably disappointed, but those looking for a decent popcorn movie with gambling, sex attractive people and luxurious pools cannot go too wrong with Runner, Runner.
Earning a relatively respectable $14.2 million at the box office on the opening weekend, there is a lot to like about Runner, Runner, as long as you don’t expect it to be a masterpiece. Most easily comparable to an updated version of the classic Robert De Niro film Casino, the film is not a cautionary tale but simply a fun exploration of the highs and lows of hedonism.