Reel Shorts | Runner Runner


On the latest episode of Reel Shorts, when a poor college student who cracks an online poker game goes bust, he arranges a face-to-face with the man he thinks cheated him, a sly offshore entrepreneur in Runner Runner.

Audio Review

      Runner Runner Review - FilmGordon Radio

This story of a desperate but smart Princeton graduate student, Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) who works as an affiliate member for an online gambling site, is faced with a life-changing situation when he is cheated out of his tuition.

He travels to Costa Rica to confront his idol and later mentor, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck channeling his best “Gordon Gekko”), who is impressed with his moxie and smarts and gives him a job in his growing empire.

But under all of the glitz and glamour, there is a seedy underbelly of corruption, including bribes, payoffs and dark, dangerous behavior – and of course, there is a beautiful but mysterious woman (Gemma Arterton), whose motives remain cloudy. There’s also an eager FBI agent, Shavers (Anthony Mackie), who tries to flip Richie and squeezes him for information.

Both Robert Luketic and Oliver Stone covered this ground, recently, more successfully in films 21 and Wall Street. In each film, there is a smart, but ambitious younger charge who is seduced by an older idol/mentor who repays their affection and effort with betrayal. Runner Runner could almost be called, “Bud Fox’s Revenge, as the film hits all of the high points without much of the intelligence or emotional makeup of Stone’s classic.

The problem lies in two areas, the film’s casting and Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s script. With only a nine-year difference in age between Affleck and Timberlake, the idol/mentor relationship doesn’t feel authentic and the film would have benefited between an older, cagier actor and Timberlake or a younger actor to play opposite Affleck.

The story, while entertaining, makes plenty of assumptions including that since Furst is smart, he can figure out the intricate system that took Block so much time to create in a short period of time, while also assuming that his character is not only smarter than Block but smarter than the audience as well.

Runner Runner with producer Leonardo DiCaprio in the Timberlake role and a more seasoned actor with a better script could have been a cinematic full house, but it’s too bad that neither Bud Fox or Richie Furst learned the Golden Rule that while “greed is good,” there will always be a young, smart kid on the up and coming willing to be a part of the legacy of these cautionary tales.

Grade: C