Poker fans, and especially online poker players have been eagerly awaiting the release of Runner, Runner.
A movie set in the world of online poker starring the likes of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck – what’s not to love?
The basic plot revolves around the main character, Richie Furst (played by Justin Timberlake) who loses all his cash after falling for an online poker scam. So, he legs it to Costa Rica to face off with the online casino’s hugely rich and deeply mysterious boss man who’s called Ivan Block (played by Ben Affleck). The mysterious bad boss man makes Richie an offer he can’t refuse, and so he’s plunged into a seedy world of dodgy dealings.
Timberlake’s Richie Furst is a maths genius who gets lost inside Ivan Block’s inner circle of criminal activities. As he’s lost his tuition fees, he feels that he has nothing to lose. And when Richie sees the lifestyle that Block lives, complete with parties, girls, and yachts he gets stuck in.
What does Runner Runner mean?
It’s the card that finishes a hand by massively improving it – a not so subtle metaphor for a not so subtle film. Affleck plays Block with all the depth of a pantomime villain, and Timberlake is cheesy and predictable as Furst. When Furst is blackmailed by the FBI to turn informer on Block, it all gets a bit shady.
Affleck is a good actor; we know this. But you wouldn’t know it from this movie. It must be fun for him to branch out into ludicrous villainy, but it is all too cliche to be truly enjoyable. He’s more of a louche lounge lizard than a properly imposing villainous type.
Timberlake fares better in the good guy role. Gemma Arterton adds yet more Bond-lite flavour as the ex-Bond girl makes do with being Affleck’s mol, who attempts to make online poker sexy. Timberlake does end up getting the girl, well, for a few minutes in the flower bed, but still.
Who will like it?
Fans of 90s type thriller movies will probably like it, as well as people who spend a lot of time at casinos, particularly if they dream of making it big and ending up in a world of gilt yachts and endless parties in Costa Rica.
It’s an OK bit of escapism but with such a stellar cast, you should be expecting way more. Affleck, in particular, feels like he’s slumming it – he’s an actor of extremes, and this is more down the lower end of the spectrum of his back catalogue.