Boasting the star power of Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton, Runner Runner tells the story of Timberlake’s Richie using gambling to pay his college tuition but consequently goes down the rabbit hole of online poker’s underworld. He comes across Affleck’s Ivan Block – a huge player in the industry – who seems to have got a little dirt under his fingernails on his rise.
Whilst somewhat enjoyable, the film is overall a dud. Its representation of its world is unrealistic and littered with holes. The main flaw of the film is down to its gratuitous use of money. Richie spends the first 15 minutes of the film aching for money and seemed morally right however this soon changes at the sniff of money. Following this, wads of cash are thrown here there and everywhere – although in an obscene plot point, Richie’s Father still owes $200,000.
The use of money notwithstanding, the representation of gender is quite frankly shocking. Although the primary target audience of both online gambling and the film are male, the women in this film are either throwaway prostitutes or Gemma Arterton. Once you’re focusing on this rather than going online with the film, it’s clear the film is not working on the level in which it aspires.
There is one level on which the film can be enjoyable. Whenever Affleck is on-screen, the film lights up. He plays Ivan Block with a great moral ambiguity who seems to take an attitude of ‘sometimes you have to get a little dirty to win the game’ and whilst he doesn’t really keep you guessing to his stance, his charm carries the film.
Runner Runner is at best a throwaway action film which is mildly enjoyable – if a little baggy, despite its 90 minute running time – and at worst, sexist and misogynistic. Going into the film, the trailer and advertising doesn’t set expectations high and it is arguable that they were met. However given its cast and the possibility of exploring an under seen world – that of online gambling – Runner Runner needed to aim higher and is sadly not as great as the sum of its parts.