As a Masters student at Princeton, Richie Furst is struggling to play for his college bills but tries to manage the debt through online gambling. Making a commission on getting his students to sign up to play, the dean catches wind of his ventures and orders a cease on all gambling activities. Richie decides to play out all of his luck on an all-night bender. He loses it all but believes that something greater than chance was at play. With his friends, they discover that the site was cheating players by changing the odds. Desperate to reclaim his money, he travels to Costa Rica to find Ivan Block and report his scandal in hopes of recovering his losses. Instead, Ivan respects his tenacity and offers him a job with his organization. Quickly, Richie gets in deep with all of the money and benefits but learns that there is a major dark side to the lifestyle. With threats from within and the FBI pressuring his involvement in the investigation, Richie needs to find a way out.
Starring: Justin Timberlake (Richie Furst), Ben Affleck (Ivan Block), Gemma Arterton (Rebecca Shafran), Anthony Mackie (Agent Shavers), Michael Esper (Billy ‘Pet’ Petricoff), Oliver Cooper (Andrew Cronin), Yul Vazquez (Delegate Herrera), John Heard (Harry Furst), James Molina (Esteban), Louis Lombardi (Archie), David Costabile (Professor Horstein)
In this thriller, Timberlake serves the role as the protagonist who goes from being a little sure of himself to scrambling for a plan. Given his polished appearance, he tended to reduce the believability of his character’s plight considering the lack of funds to travel. Affleck was not overly compelling but filled the role as the villain decently. Mackie’s character seemed a little overzealous at times. Arterton felt like no more than eye candy, as her character was underdeveloped with her lack of a more comprehensive backstory.
Brad Furman’s thriller was set in Costa Rica and explored the dangerous world of gambling and criminal activity. Richie was a smart kid and had a lot of opportunity in front of him. While he had participated in a gamble in the past with Wall Street, he was unable to maintain his involvement and required further education to reenter his dream job. He did not know that he could get involved in a gambling organization and Ivan was able to convince him to abandon his old life to take on a new one. The money and status kept him in the business for a while, but his friends (who he brought down to work with him) began to hit their limit. The sleaze and the illegal activity had become too much for them. Even Richie realized he was in over his head, but he was forced to get a little too close to death before he devised his plan to release himself from the burden.
The movie had some twists and turns, but a lot of what was portrayed was flash with little substance. The thriller element was mostly displayed through scenes like the crocodile feeding and the attempted breaking point when Richie was short the bribe money. The plausibility of someone throwing their life away for a huge gamble was both the point of the movie and a very weak plot point. Finding the right type of ending to the film was going to be tough, and it just seemed like it was wrapped up with a bow a little too easily (except, of course, for the getaway for the hero and his love interest). Weak emotional connections with the characters and hazy action hurt the actual thrill elements of the film.
Runner Runner could have been a more intriguing film, but several other gambling films have already proven themselves more engaging, intriguing, and emotionally investing.
Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5