Film Review: Runner, Runner (M) (USA, 2013)

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The plot of the recently released Runner, Runner centres around Richie Furst (played by Justin Timberlake), a Princeton student who loses all of his tuition money on Midnight Black, an online poker site run by Ivan Block (played by Ben Affleck) who then ends up working for him, moves swiftly from the get-go, but begins to pace itself when things turn sour.

It would have been great to show more character complexity with a lengthened backstory of Richie leading up to the main plot (even with the character of Ivan Block), but honestly, who has time for that when you have some new pet crocodiles to feed. As noted by one of the supporting characters in the film, some people want to be super rich but others will just settle for being rich.

The story was interesting and based on true events surrounding big poker sites where companies were caught accessing funds in players’ betting accounts, but in all honesty it was without doubt the Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake show, which is freaking great and should happen more often.

Although Timberlake put on a reasonably good performance, there was always a half-hope that the film would turn in to a musical to showcase his true talent as he bursts out into a song about a straight flush (or something to that effect). It didn’t happen, but it was great to see him in this role.

Ben Affleck is so very suave, executed every line perfectly and was incredibly convincing as the super rich criminal mastermind that you could almost forget that his best bud, Matt Damon, also made a poker movie called Rounders in 1998 alongside Edward Norton (written by the same scriptwriters, Brian Koppelman and David Levien). Affleck, you da bomb. And we didn’t need Argo to convince us of that (although it seriously helped).

Rebecca Shafran (played by Gemma Arterton) is the love interest in the film. She is ‘nice’ however did not really add anything to the film. It felt like she was an attempt at some romantic element to the drama and chaos but it wasn’t really clear what her intentions were and her true feelings for either of the men she was seemingly torn between.

For a movie about poker, there really isn’t any poker playing in it at all, however the entire story was told in poker metaphor, using core lingo (such as the film’s title ‘runner runner’ which refers to the act of chasing the final two cards, the turn and the river, in order to produce a strong hand) to illustrate what was happening.

And in poker metaphor summary, when all you got to show is a pair of aces; Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, you might end up with a winning hand.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Runner, Runner is in national release now.

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