It became a cult favourite. Around the same time Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck teamed up for a nifty little movie about stock marketing hustling called Boiler Room. It also became a cult hit.
Runner Runner tries to be a bit of both Rounders and Boiler Room, and fails spectacularly at it. Directed by Brad Furman who made the surprisingly decent The Lincoln Lawyer last year, Runner Runner is a clichéd, formulaic movie that wastes its impressive cast and legitimately intriguing premise. Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake starring in a trashy, boring, lazy film is something of a mystery given their formidable choices so far. It only seems like they both lost a bet or were tricked into doing this movie.
Timberlake plays Richie, a yuppie college dude who gets in hot water after getting caught playing the campus bookie. The film then makes a ham fisted point about exorbitant college fees in US universities by showing that the hero decides to pay for tuition by gambling online. Naturally he loses everything, and his only ray of hope becomes Ivan Block (Affleck), a showman of a conman who lives the hip life. Block offers Richie a shady job with the lure of big money, women and flashy cars, and Richie contemplates ditching college for the lifestyle of the Great Gatsby.
The problem is nothing in the film is new or interesting or attention grabbing, as the filmmakers continue piling on one hackneyed plot device after another. There have been dozens and dozens of films like 21 which focused on college kids being sucked into allure of a high rolling lifestyle and many of them had more thrills in their opening credits that the entirety of Runner Runner. The film quickly becomes predictable instead of entertaining and dull instead of action packed. You’re better off heading to the local DVD store and grabbing a copy of the Scandinavian film Snabba Cash, which has a similar story but is executed into a terrific, heart-pounding snazzy cinema.