I know I am a bit late to the party with this review, but I only got around to watching this movie tonight. Anyway, given I am a bit of a poker tragic and listen to a lot of podcasts, I was aware of the significant hype that surrounded Runner Runner, the new movie written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the writers that gave us unarguably the best poker movie of all time, Rounders. Unfortunately, for all of the hopes about this being another decent poker movie, all of the poker scenes happen in the first 15 minutes of the movie, and other than some pretty bad puns, the rest of the movie is a classically boring Hollywood thriller.
The first thing to note is that the film makers achieved something huge here – by somehow getting Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck to star in this piece of crap!
The basic premise is that Richie First (Justin Timberlake), a brilliant Princeton graduate that is somehow stupid enough to gamble his whole poker bankroll in one night, gets cheated in scenes reminiscent of the Ultimate Bet scandal, by a site called Midnight Black (or something like that, I forgot already) ran by Ivan Block, (Ben Affleck). So in the first of numerous plot holes, Richie decides to just jet off to Costa Rica and confront Ivan, who is somehow supposed to give him all of his money back, but instead offers him a job, at which Richie’s already questionable moral sensibilities go out the window and it is all about the moolah.
From there the plot devolves even further, with a love interest introduced in the form of Ivan’s girlfriend Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), random FBI agents that come out of nowhere at random points in the movie, Richie’s dad, an old school degenerate gambler somehow gets involved, and it all wraps up with an extremely unsatisfying and predictable conclusion.
One of things that stuck out to me like dogs balls was that the movie was loosely based on the Ultimate Bet Scandal, but they weren’t referenced directly as the perpetrator, the company Ivan owned was fictional. At one point in the movie though, they talk about affiliates, and Richie is trying to woo some guy to work for them instead – and the one and only real-life online poker company that is mentioned in the movie, is, wait for it, ULTIMATE BET!!! I mean seriously! I cant work it out. This movie was made after Black Friday, but somehow a reference to Ultimate Bet is left in the script as some sort of legitimate competition to Ivan’s company? Really?
Minor spoiler to prove how cliched most of this movie is, but there is a funny “cops on the runway coming to arrest person stepping off his private jet” scene, and it just involves random black jeeps coming from the end of the runway – why wouldn’t they come from the terminal behind them, isn’t that where the roads are? Similarly, another plane takes off into the sunset (am I honestly spoiling this for you guys?), and the cop cars chase them… WHY ARE THEY CHASING A PLANE? What are they going to be doing? Do they really think they could stop the plane?
It was actually a pretty fitting ending to this extremely boring movie. The one positive thing I could say about the movie is that it looks very slick, locations were cool, and Gemma Arterton looked pretty hot most of the time, just that it was completely devoid of a remotely interesting plot. I can’t even really comment on the performances by the three main leads, because I have seen them all in other things and I know they are good, just that they really don’t have much to work with here.
It was an extremely forgettable movie.
As a way of an apology for making you read this, have a hot pic of Gemma Arterton and stare at that for 90 minutes instead