Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Runner Runner

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! You would think that a movie about gambling and crime would be willing to take some risks.  

Runner Runner – 2 out of 5

The closest I’ve come to playing poker was hitting the video poker machine when I got too bored of playing the slots, started to feel too overwhelmed trying to do math in public with blackjack and had my fill of getting business cards for escort services when I was on my last trip to Las Vegas.  I’ll be honest; I don’t really know the game very well.  Straights, royal flushes, hands, folding, bluffing; it’s all foreign to me…but that won’t stop me from watching a movie about poker and crimes that may ensue because of it.

Unless I am mistaken, this is a poker table.

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is trying to make it through his Ivy League education on what little money he got from his days on Wall Street.  However, it’s not enough (it never is), so he works for an online gambling site and works to convince his fellow students to bet it all on black (you do that in poker, right?  Did I get my gambling reference correct?  No?  Okay, moving on).  In order to pay his own tuition, Furst decides to do a little online poker himself and ends up losing it all—however he runs the numbers and learns he was cheated on the website.  With nothing else to lose, Furst travels to Costa Rica to confront the owner of the site; Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), and inform him that someone had cheated him on his site.  This wins over Block and he brings Furst in on the action.  However, after being confronted by an F.B.I. agent (Anthony Mackie), Furst learns that Block is using his site for criminal activities and now must save his ass by finding the evidence needed to arrest the man.

You know...some actors shouldn't sing and some singers shouldn't act.

I can only assume that Runner Runner was made completely on the first draft of the script and, when asked if some rewrites or a second draft was considered, it was decided there was no time for it and the world needed the release of the online poker crime thriller starring the dude who brought sexy back after all of reality decided we didn’t need or want sexy again and the man who will be our next Batman (and caused the butthurt of a million, billion fanboys who will tell you, without any anticipation of being wrong, that he will be a terrible Batman without even having the need to see him in a single scene of the upcoming film…just like how these people KNEW Heath Ledger was going to be a terrible Joker).  Not having a second draft to the script is the only scenario I can think of to explain why the film has no tension, suspense, drama or even feel like an effort was placed into it.

Right now, I'm picturing the mask on him...

While visually and, from a pure technical standpoint, the film is very well put together.  The camera work, while not flashy or memorable, does its job well and the editing, while seemingly jarring thanks to a poorly constructed narrative, is alright.  However, the film falls very, very flat thanks to its story being incredibly weak and the plot being terribly messy...some terrible performances don’t help either.

Drama and anything that isn't a comedy or hosting SNL may not be your thang when
it comes to acting, JT.

Even though Runner Runner wants desperately to be a slick, gambling thriller that mixes in the element of cyber-crime thanks to its plot element of online gambling, the movie feels like it flat out refuses to infuse any sort of drama, tension or suspense.  Even when the story throws in twists like Furst’s father being bought by Block in order to keep Furst on a short leash, the end result feels like it happens and then the movie doesn’t know what to do with it so it just goes to the next scene.  That’s what the entire film feels like.  It puts something in the story, is completely unclear on how to properly utilize it and then decides to just run away to the next scene.  The end result of this was a story I just couldn’t get interested in because it felt like it just didn’t know how to create any thrills or tension.

But the movie does have some sex appeal.

It doesn’t help matters that there isn’t a single well developed character in the film, either.  Justine Timberlake is suppose to be the “hero” of the film and you know this because he tries unbearably hard to be cool and, despite a single beating his character takes, the production (but more like Timberlake’s agent amybe) won’t allow a single moment to occur to the character that could make him look weak or relatable.  Every single moment, his character is calm, collected, has everything in order and is trying way to hard to look cool while doing it…but Timberlake isn’t convincing with this.  He looks uncomfortable trying to be cool and all the poker jargon that gets tossed around the film like it was purchased at wholesale doesn’t do any favors with making his character look believable.  

Then you have a love interest that is awkwardly placed in the story and forgot about almost instantaneously until the end.  Gemma Arterton plays the woman who is, essentially, property of Ivan Block but becomes enamored with Furst.  You would think this could create a great deal of tension in the story as Furst starts boinking Block’s babe but, because this film almost feels allergic to anything that could possibly resemble drama, Arterton quickly disappears from the story and only appears again towards the end.

"Hello, I heard the plot needs me again..."

Part of this devoid of excitement, flat rollercoaster ride this film has missing is any real antagonist.  With a terribly unconvincing protagonist, you think the movie would have made sure to get the bad guy right but, being allergic to drama and tension, the movie settles for a flat performance from Ben Affleck.  I enjoy Affleck as a director and as an actor as well (and yes, I’m excited to see him as Batman) but it looked like Affleck just didn’t care or the character just wasn’t written well enough for him to figure out what to do with him.  While, at times, Affleck looks like the charismatic criminal who wants to give his mark the world while he is secretly stabbing him in the back and putting things in motion for him to take the fall BUT, the rest of the time, Affleck just gave a terribly flat performance that made it look like he just didn’t care about the project.

Or he was contractually obligated to do the film.

The only real decent performance that I saw came from Anthony Mackie who played F.B.I. Agent Shavers.  Mackie is a terrific actor and he really took the character that had almost nothing going for it and made it work to the best extent he could.  Sadly for this movie, that doesn’t really help the film much because his character barely has a presence...because, if he did, that might get dramatic and the movie can't have that.

"Look, we're not trying to make a movie that's watchable or entertaining here."

Runner Runner is a thrill-less thriller and a drama-less drama that only gets the crime part right about its genre.  Boring, flat and unconvincing performances only add to the films lack of spectacle and it spends its entire running length with about as much ceremony as the uneventful ending that just ended up looking like the director and writers were tired and say, “Eh, let’s wrap it up…it’s good enough as is.”  However, it wasn’t good enough…not by a long shot.

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