Starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton; directed by Brad Furman; running time is 1 hour, 31 minutes; rated R for language and some sexual content, Grade: D
You'd think the odds were stacked in favor of "Runner Runner." A slick thriller set in the world of online gambling, it boasts A-List stars of the moment in Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, not to mention a reliable director in Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") and a storyline with plenty of contemporary resonance. But much like the world it depicts, it's all style and no substance.
When Princeton whiz Richie Furst (Timberlake) loses all his money in an online poker scam, he travels to Costa Rica to confront the site's mysterious owner, Ivan Block (Affleck). Much to his surprise he finds himself offered a job and the chance to earn millions if he's prepared to sell his soul. As Furst takes the first steps toward making his millions, however, he finds life becoming complicated by a persistent FBI agent (Anthony Mackie), corrupt Costa Rican officials and a distracting potential love interest (Gemma Arterton), who also shares a history with Block.
Taking its cues from films like "The Devil's Advocate," "Runner Runner" isn't without its moments, usually involving Affleck hatching something devious. And while it looks great, it struggles to take grip. Part of this is due to the story, which promises more meat than it delivers. This is also a film that pretends to be a lot smarter than it is, with many of the plot twists visible a mile off.
The characters also struggle to make any real impression, with Affleck afforded too little time to really make his villain interesting, Timberlake struggling to gain much sympathy and Arterton reduced to eye candy throughout. Once all of the film's cards have been revealed, it's hard not to feel a little cheated.
rob carnevale, rotten tomatoes