Gemma, Gemma! Err…I Mean ‘Runner, Runner’ (Movie Review)

Runner Runner TN2Up until a few months ago, I never heard of this film.  Then a star’s name in the billing credits caught my eye and that’s all it took.  Hook…line…and sinker!  Yeah, baby!  That’s right!  My 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 on Wednesday night, there wasn’t even a second of hesitation.  Anything lingering on my calendar, as far as I am concerned, can 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 have 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?  And oh yeah…did I mention Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake also star in this one?  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 for me.  Shoes all laced up?  Good!  Let’s hit the ground running…

So first thing first…sorry about the bad running joke.  Okay.  Now let’s get down to business!  I guess you could call Runner, Runner a crime, drama thriller.  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 seen the trailers 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.  It has Gemma power!!!  However, I digress.  Let’s move on and talk plot, shall we?

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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 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?!  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?

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.

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Despite all the negative reviews out there, I managed to have a good time with Runner, Runner.  It’s not going to win any awards, but don’t be ridiculous.  We already knew that.  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).

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 and acted the part, 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.  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.  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.  Check it out at a matinee if you can.  Just don’t say I did not tell you so.  Between this or Gravity, who do you think will win this weekend at the box office?  Ouch those tomatoes hurt!

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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).

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