BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
OCTOBER 19, 2013
Even if “Runner Runner” straddles the line between stale and refreshing, the ensemble cast alone is enough to get people in the seats. What initially drew me to the film was the villainous performance from Ben Affleck, which we are not privy to in most of his showings. But as Ivan Block, he’s allowed to be the likable bad guy, the bad guy that is still wholly captivating even when in the throws of performing evil. Also, straddling a line is Affleck’s performance. His character is displayed more on his time-worn face than in his words or actions. To balance this, they toss Justin Timberlake in as the resident nice guy, baby-faced and doe-eyed, given the keys to the castle, but always kept at arm’s length, which can be said for his performance as well.
Whenever Timberlake takes the lead in an action movie or thriller, he runs the gambit of being too inexperienced and flashy—begging the question of whether someone else should be in the role. Say “Wanted,” for example, with lead James McAvoy; I buy him entirely in the part of the nobody turned professional killer, but Timberlake in “Runner Runner” is never quite convincing. Gemma Arterton is phenomenally gorgeous, and even her assets are squandered, left to play the female ping pong between Affleck and Timberlake, with no real motives or direction. Anthony Mackie, as overly aggressive FBI agent Shavers is fresh in his role, and perhaps plays his part too well, surrounded by too many people not entirely giving it their all. “Runner Runner” is a compelling concept that delivers in small doses, but never takes the full plunge.
October 4, 2013
20th Century Fox
(for language and some sexual content)
Jennifer Davisson Killoran