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Cast: Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton), Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie)
Director: Brad Furman
Theatrical release: 10/04/2013
DVD Date: 01/07/2014
Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 91 minutes
Note(s): Original screenplay by Brian Koppelman and David Levien.
— ♦ —
Review: The promos for Runner, Runner seemed promising enough, suggesting a caper-style plot set in a sun-drenched climate, but what I saw didn't measure up at all. And what's with that title, anyway?
The premise is a simple one: Justin Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a Princeton grad student, who loses everything to an online gaming site based in Costa Rica. His research into why he lost suggests he was cheated, so he boards a flight to Costa Rica to meet up with Ivan Block, the CEO of Midnight Black, played by Ben Affleck. Invited to an affiliate party, he does meet Block and presents him with his evidence. Instead of being thrown out of the party, indeed, even out of the country, Block invites Richie to his yacht, where he makes him an offer: run the day-to-day business of Midnight Black making a minimum of 7 figures in salary, commission, and bonus a year. Of course Richie says yes, and of course things don't go quite as planned.
Before I get to the storyline itself, I have to say I was unprepared for what an awful actor Justin Timberlake is. I'm not sure I've seen him in anything else, but I guess I wasn't expecting such a poor performance here. It was as if the director (or someone) kept telling him, try harder, try harder, and he does to the point where every single scene he's in is almost comical watching him "try harder". You can imagine the editors going through the no doubt dozens of takes and trying to pick the least objectionable to cut into the film. Ben Affleck isn't a very good actor on his best day, but he shines here in comparison. Everyone else is completely forgettable; even as I write this I can't picture any of them in my mind.
I'm willing to overlook poor performances if the story works, and this one actually did (more or less) until about the mid-point, where it completely fell apart. I was hoping to see more of Richie's plan to take Block down; instead it was simply pay-off after pay-off to buy protection for himself. Richie is supposed to be this ultra-smart guy, so where was his ultra-smart — or at least cleverly devised — plan? The last half of the film was routine to the point of being boring. And again, what was the title supposed to mean?
Popcorn films are fine if they at least entertain, but this one didn't succeed at even that. I'll give it credit for being somewhat ambitious in its scope, but no points at all for failing to deliver on even the most basic level.
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