d – Brad Furman
w – Brian Koppelman, David Levien
ph – Mauro Fiore
pd – Charisse Cardenas
m – Christophe Beck
ed – Jeff McEvoy
cos – Sophie De Rakoff
p - Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Michael Esper, Oliver Cooper, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, John Heard, James Molina
It is common, backyard knowledge to the mainstream computer proprietor that playing online poker is probably not a very good idea. What’s even more eminent is that being cheated out of your money by a computer virus is not particularly captivating to watch. Movies with people who wear ties or high heels and yell at each other in rooms containing giant computer screens have been contaminating the cinematic water supply for about two decades now. This coincides with the arrow of time always pointing in the direction of escalating telecommunications. So, naturally, movies would follow suit.
Despite this, filmmakers have struggled to examine characters sitting in front of computers typing with any sense of cinematic vitality. David Fincher is an exception to this. Brad Furman, unfortunately, is not, and his new film Runner, Runner is about the dullest “online-scam” movie one could imagine. It’s even duller than Middle Men (2010).
Justin Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a Princeton student who is hoodwinked out of his tuition money by playing online poker games. When he ascertains that the site is governed from a secluded island position (in Costa Rica), he goes to confront the site's corrupt and ruthless owner, Ivan Block played by Ben Affleck. For reasons that are beyond trivial, Furst is lured into becoming Ivan's acolyte and right-hand man. Their relationship starts to reach a boiling point and Richie becomes involved with the FBI as an informant of Ivan’s dirty doings.
Mr Furman lacks any kind of oscillation that would make what is essentially a B-Movie script with a lot of long words at all exciting. And to be fair, the screenplay by Brad Koppelman and David Levien (who also produced the film) is not terrible and the first few scenes when Timberlake and Affleck meet hinted at an adventure of interest. But Mr Furman packages the picture with a catalogue of deluxe accommodations and vehicles and computers and yachts and jets and furniture and more computers so that nothing can resonate, least of all the actors. Amongst all the bashes laden with skimpily clothed womenfolk, there is no connotation or nuance that helps at all understand, or even enjoy, what Richie is going and why he would proceed.
The final act of the film’s plot is brazenly absurd but it’s absurd in a way I don’t think I’ve encountered before. Without revealing too much, Richie is required to “turn the tables” on his boss. He discovers how he can do this. However, his overall plan is so stupidly over-elaborate that the amount of time the movie gives him to complete the task is outside of the realm of human capacity. No one, not even a superhero (unless he had super-computer-typing powers) could accomplish what Richie does here. But he does and I was left in hysterics. But what do I know. There sure were a lot of computers and computers can do anything right?
Mr Furman’s previous film The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) also had plausibility problems, but in that film’s case they were easier to get over. The reason Runner, Runner is deprived of that luxury is because the film in question is such a colossal bore that one can’t help but think of the fantastical machinations of the plot just to stay awake. And that is the film’s biggest sin: not that it’s unrealistic, but that it’s unenjoyable.