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Film Review – Runner Runner

Director: Brad Furman
Screenplay: Brian Koppelman, David Levian
Cast: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Anthony Mackie, Gemma Arterton
Genre: Action
Rating: ***
Venue: Ster Kinekor Maerua Mall, Cine 4

Rating Score
* – Poor
** – Average
*** – Good
**** – Very Good
***** – Excellent

What do you do when you gamble your way in order to get a Masters degree, or a ticket to the good life with the last of your savings but then end up losing it all? Do you quit school and move on or do you go after those that have cheated you?
It’s a game of win or lose in Runner Runner as Princeton graduate student Richie (Justin Timberlake), believing he’s been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront on-line 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 force Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever, attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.

The choice of the actors is just excellent. There is the cool, calm and collected Ben Affleck while Justin Timberlake is simply intriguing. This shows that his acting skills are finally improving (there is hope for the pop star in Hollywood after all). Gemma Arterton who plays Block’s girlfriend and right hand woman (Rebecca) is as sweet as she is sexy. I would have to say the director managed to pull off a successful casting coup, and made a decent film. Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Block is one of his best works yet. He manages to convince the audience that he is a good guy who is immune to money when in reality he is as greedy and ruthless as the crocodiles that he feeds his rivals to. Money is the only thing motivating him, and he is hungry for more but pretends to play it cool. Talk about a devil in disguise.
The movie surprisingly has little to do with on-line poker and gambling but instead focuses on organized crime and partying. I expected nail-biting moments in which players pray for the right card or roll dice in slow motion but alas the only nail biting I did is when Ritchie was almost found out by Block and when he was detained by the lawless abusive FBI agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie).
Runner Runner could have had the potential to be so much better. The acting is great, there is a lot of manipulation, blackmail and money laundering schemes, all done with such perfection I got even more terrified than I already am about on-line gambling. But the execution of the storyline lacked a little seriousness.
The seduction of gambling in the anonymity of your own home where you are free to lose truckloads in privacy is exposed in this film. It also looks at organized crime. It is a drama, thriller,and an action movie all in one. A really good film about society and the pressures we come under through gambling. We are enticed I must say. Even though the ending is a little too cliche’d, it is a great one, but one can not help but feel that the film should continue, maybe have Block’s henchmen come after Richie.
Do not get me wrong, it is action packed and keeps you at the edge of your seat with its fast-paced scenes. Not only that, it shows beautiful landscapes in Coast Rica. Runner Runner may not be Timberlake’s best film yet and Affleck will not win an Oscar for this one but I can guarantee that you will enjoy watching it. I am just not too sure how you will feel about on-line gambling after you have seen it.


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