Runner Runner (Blu-ray Review)

I remember when this film first came out.  I never heard of it until a few months before it’s release date.  I thought that was odd.  Then a star’s name in the billing credits caught my eye and that’s all it took.  I didn’t care anymore as to how this film managed to sneak under my radar.  Hook…line…and sinker!  Yeah, baby!  That’s right!  Gemma’s in the house again and it’s time to get this party started!  So needless to say when I received the press invite to this one, there wasn’t even a second of hesitation.  Anything lingering on my calendar, as far as I am concerned, could wait.  Gemma needs my love and support.  This movie can suck for all I care, but as long as Gemma looks good in it, you already had my money…if I was a paying customer.  But let’s talk about that.  Is Gemma Arterton and her newest flick worth the price of admission now that it’s out on Blu-ray and DVD?  And oh yeah…did I mention Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake also star in this one too?  I guess you can say there’s a star in this for every one.  So let’s take a closer look and see if you’ll be prone to “run” away from Runner Runner or stick around and play.  Shoes all laced up?  Good!  Let’s hit the ground running…

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So first thing first…sorry about the bad running joke up above.  Okay.  Now let’s get down to business!  I guess you could call Runner Runner a crime, drama thriller with gambling involved.  The script, written by Brian Koppleman and David Levien, is directed by Brad Furman.  In addition to the dynamic trio I introduced in the paragraph above this, it also stars Anthony Mackie too.  And get this!  One of the producers here is none other than Leonardo DiCaprio.  Hey Leo!  I have some scripts for you to look at too.  So I’m sure you have all at least seen the movie’s trailer by now.  It has a simple, tried and true plot that we will talk about in a moment, but what about those Rotten Tomatoes scores?  Ouch!  Come on guys, this has Gemma in it!  That alone gives it a least a two-doggie rating.  However, I digress.  Let’s move on and talk about some plot.

Richie Furst (Timberlake), a Princeton student, feels cheated.  He lost his tuition money playing online poker.  Well duh, Richie!  What did you think was going to happen?!  You thought you were going to win?!  Well anyway, with that lunacy out of the way, Richie discovers that the site is hosted from a remote island location and like a glutton for punishment he goes out there to confront the site’s owner, Ivan Block (Affleck aka Batman).  However, you see, Ivan is a master of manipulation and quickly turns the tables as he brainwashes Richie into becoming his right-hand man.  But those pesky FBI agents are everywhere always trying to ruin the fun, aren’t they?  Take this Agent Shavers (Mackie)…he’s hell bent on bringing Ivan’s organization down and he wants Richie to help him.  Oh wait!  Did I mention Gemma Arterton’s in this?!  I know I did!  She portrays Richie’s love interest Rebecca Shafran and is also the person you would need to get past to visit Ivan.  Say whaaaat?!  Why on Earth would you want to ever get past Gemma, err I mean Rebecca?  If it was me, I’d stop right there and be satisfied with Gemma.

So that’s about the gist of the story.  You see where we are going here?  A guy, broke and down on his luck, seeks revenge for the wrong done unto him and ends up not only falling for the boss’ wife, but doing his dirty work for him too.  But rest assured, Richie is not as gullible and dumb as he appears.  At least we hope he’s not.  While he rises to the top and gains everything he’s always wanted he quickly realizes everything he earns comes with a price tag, whether it be morally or financially, he’s going to pay for it in the end one way or the other.  The real question becomes whether Richie can maintain his moral scruples and find a way out of this mess or will Ivan always retain the upper hand and frame Richie for it all, if he should fall?  How’s that to whet your appetite and peak your curiosity?  Did that do anything at all?  Just remember, Johnny Law’s still out there too?  Who’s going to cross who and who’s going to get who?  That’s what you should be worried about.

Despite all the negative reviews out there, I managed to have a good time with Runner Runner even now after my second viewing.  It’s obviously not going to win any awards, but don’t be ridiculous.  Why would it?  We already knew that it wasn’t going to anyway.  Rotten Tomatoes is the ultimate word, is it not?  So yes!  Gemma stole every scene she was in with her radiant glow, charm and beauty, but I’m looking past her now at the rest of the meat and potatoes here.  I identified with the story line, the rise and fall of the hero who quickly realizes he’s in over his head just when he thought he had conquered life.  I can relate to that feeling.  We all want our shot at money, power and fame.  And when that moment comes, how are you going to play it?  You going to turn the other way with your tail between your legs or are you going to seize it all costs?  I know what decision I would make, do you?  The movie also fondly deals with another subject that I hold near and dear to my heart…gambling.  While I’m not Mr. Moneybags or a big gambler in real life, I can’t deny that I don’t find the thrill of the sport intriguing and sexy…because I do…very much so.  There’s nothing like the adrenaline rushing through your body when your on a hot streak, but do you have the discipline to quit while your ahead?  Of course you don’t.  That’s why the house always wins and this movie just reinforces that point over and over (just in case you don’t believe me).

And now let’s talk about my only complaint here.  It’s a shocker.  While I can never say enough good things about Gemma, her character just didn’t do it for me here.  She wasn’t convincing enough.  Sure she looked stupendous and acted the part well, but her arc was unrealistic to me and at the end of the day I found myself not caring if she took a swim with the gators or if she walked into the sunset.  That’s disappointing with a smiley face.  Timberlake’s character on the other hand, well of course you’re rooting for him.  However, I kind of feel the same way about him too.  His character grows very little throughout and by the time we come to Act 3 I feel like I did not see him dragged through the mud enough.  We got the proverbial whiff of death moment here, but I wanted a little more time with his setup and plans.  I blame it on the brief 91-minute runtime as I felt a little short changed in that department.  Now with Affleck, what can I say?  He’s the Batman!  And he plays his role perfectly here.  He looks the part and talks the talk.  Shallow storyline and all, you can’t deny there’s some great dialog here and perils of wisdom that spew out of Affleck’s mouth left and right throughout the feature.  He was perhaps the highlight of this film.  I know I was a hater before, but I’m really curious to see what he brings to the table as Bruce Wayne and the old Bat Guy in 2015.  So in summary, things can be so much worse here.  Instead, I had an enjoyable time with this light hearted thriller.  However, take that with a grain of salt.  I may still be smitten by Gemma’s involvement or how I felt about Affleck so I’ll just put this disclaimer out there.  Your results may vary.  Proceed with caution.  This is a mediocre tale at best only tipping the scale a bit with the breadth of actors involved, otherwise it would be a solid 2.5 no more.  So while we may agree to disagree with the film score and the fact that there’s no doubt that I’m under Gemma’s spell, there shouldn’t be any complaints when it comes to the Blu-ray disc’s vitals.  So let’s take a quick run and talk about them so we can get this review over with!

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20th Century Fox lets Runner Runner hit ground “running” (pun intended) on the Blu-ray format with quite a remarkable MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p widescreen presentation perfectly framed, like Gemma Arterton, in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Right off the bat, things are bright here!  Maybe a little too bright for one’s likings, but I remember the orangish glows distinctively in the theater and it’s captured and rendered all the same here on this Blu-ray disc of the hour.  While it’s not reference quality like that of Pacific Rim Blu-ray release last year, it is on par with the stellar and impeccably sharp at times transfer like Fox gave us with The Wolverine this past December.  So yeah…you have that orange quality thing going on here, but all I see is Gemma.  I can’t help it.  Give me more Gemma in every frame, please Fox!  And yes!  I did mention fine detail too.  It’s the little things that kill like the fine grays in Affleck’s mane to the freckles here and there that adorn the arms and face of actress Gemma Arterton.  It’s strange how her name keeps coming up over and over again here, huh?  Runner Runner is also full of some beautiful Costa Rican scenery, landscapes and backgrounds too and once again, they are radiantly on display for all to view and gasp at here whether you’re a fan of the film or not.  There’s no denying that beautiful, blue and serene water or those luscious green sprouts of vegetation.  And of course all those little pesky things like noise, artifacts, blemishes, specks, etc. are no where to be found in this transfer and those black levels…well…they’re in check here too with thriving deepness and desire not to disappoint.  While it’s not perfect here in this department, this one’s a keeper for me!

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Alright, so while I wish I can continue on and say everything is almost perfect like in the video section above I do have a little nitpicking to do about the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that Fox provides us with here.  I can’t really put my finger on it and I don’t remember particularly how it sounded in the theater, but the surround sound dynamics are lacking a tad here.  Dialog is all loud, clear and intelligible as you would expect it to be in the front of a new release on Blu-ray, but sadly I wan’t immersed totally in the surround fields.  The score does a fine job of putting you in the middle, but dammit I want the onscreen action to do the same for me.  It’s not that it’s a flat track, because it isn’t.  Sonically, it’s crowd pleasing to the ears, but I/you will want more engulfment from the track.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have heard much better.  But then again…Runner Runner is a crime caper film, so I guess I should not be expecting anything balls out ballistic from it, right? As long as a flick has a catchy, swooping score and understandable dialog I am good with it.  But if Pacific Rim sounded like this, then I would have bones to break.   Selectable via the main menu are additional audio tracks such as a French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles to choose from too if you were interested.

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Whether you are a fair weather fan of the film like me or not, there’s no denying probably the most underwhelming aspect of this Blu-ray release is in the Special Features department.  Or maybe I should say what special features, huh?  Disappointingly, in addition to a DVD of the film and a couple Digital Copies, all you get here is two lonely supplements and sadly no Gemma Arterton featurettes or even an audio commentary.  So let’s not waste anymore time fluffing pillows here.  Let’s talk about the two lonely supplements you will find here, sadly.  Oh I meant three!  There’s a theatrical trailer too!

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:40) – Like usual I can always live without these.  There’s a reason why these didn’t make it into the final cut and believe you me, these selections would not have made it a better film either.
  • House of Cards – The Inside Story of Online Poker (HD, 17:00 ) – This featurette takes a look at the history of online poker as well as providing some tidbits and quips from the cast and some clips from the film too.  You saw the movie, right?  There’s not too much here.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:25) – I think you all know what this one is.
  • DVD (SD) – Here’s an extra disc for your kiddies to watch in the back of the minivan on long trips.
  • iTunes Digital Copy (SD) and UltraViolet Digital HD (HD) – While I prefer my Digital Copies to be of iTunes HD, there’s no denying the extra value of the new Flixster app on the iPad as well as streaming the film in HDX on the Vudu app on the Playstation 3 for UV copies nowadays.  Pick your poison here in your travels.

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So I completely understand everyone’s beef with Runner Runner.  WSB’s Brandon Peters has it listed on his worst mainstream films of 2013 over here and Aaron Neuwirth said dude come on it’s only Runner Runner.  But I’ll tell you what?  I was excited to revisit Runner Runner again today!  And while I know it’s not a great film by any means, I want to recap the three main feelings as to why I’m committed to this 20th Century Fox title and why I wanted it represented on the site here.  First off, you all know my love for Gemma Arterton, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  She looks incredible here in 1080p and that should be enough of a reason to warrant anyone wanting to own this title on Blu-ray.  And second off, who knows, maybe he took his role too seriously, but Ben Affleck, in my opinion, delivered a fine performance here.  Justin Timberlake, on the other spectrum, seemed a little unsure of himself, but Bennifer proved why he is on top of Hollywood nowadays, in my opinion, even if the script did fall apart at times.  And third, but certainly not last, it’s not that terrible or train wreck of a movie (of course this is only my opinion).  Runner Runner, besides that of Gemma, has plenty of beautiful scenery to gaze upon and stimulating subject matter such as online poker and how unknowingly you can get screwed over in this world if you let yourself fall prey and succumb to become an unsuspecting victim of fraud.  There’s a reason they say the house always wins.  Did you think it would be any different online?  I mean seriously, everyone is out to swindle and make money.  If you don’t believe me, check out The Wolf of Wall Street.  Jordan will make a believer out of you.  Until next time, thanks for reading everyone.

Although Runner Runner was officially released on Blu-ray and DVD this past Tuesday, you can still grab your copy here.

Runner Runner Blu-ray Cover


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

5 Responses to “Runner Runner (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Definitely a movie that came out some time.

  2. Brandon Peters

    It’s definitely not a train wreck. That would have been more entertaining than the boring cliched slug that they delivered. The first 20 minutes led me to believe it might be that ridiculous bad movie that I could enjoy and laugh at…but that soon went away.

    Gemma always looks great, but I can also look for pictures of her online, find clips or watch better movies with her in it if I need be.

  3. Brian White

    Send them over, B!

  4. Gerard Iribe

    I’ll watch this on Blu-ray since I missed it in theaters.

  5. Brandon Peters

    Pretty sure you have access to google, Brian