One of the first sound movies was The Al Jolson Story. Charting the life of the famous singer, it paved the way for crooners to make the leap into film. Bing Crosby, Beyonce and Madonna among many have tried their hand at celluloid fame. Few have made a successful transition.
Justin Timberlake, so far, appears to have made good as Runner Runner proves. Switching from performing pop ditties to acting with ease, his latest shows some talent in an often unforgiving industry.
Cheated out of tuition money after playing an online poker game, student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) seeks revenge. Locating the site’s owner Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), he confronts him. To his surprise Ivan asks him to join his operation. Accepting, little does Richie know the extent of Ivan’s shady existence. This is further magnified when Richie becomes a pawn by the FBI to bring Ivan down. What follows is a trail of murder and deceit with few left standing.
Runner Runner more than lives up to its title. A very fast-paced movie, its brevity often comes at the expense of characterisation. Whilst the initial set-up is interesting, the execution falters. Within a space of a few minutes, Furst loses his money, tracks down Block and then joins his organisation. This bewildering speed defies belief with plot holes continually increasing. The naivety of Timberlake’s character also becomes irritating despite a generally solid performance.
Brad Furman directs the workman-like screenplay with some flair. Although very much a case of style over substance, he injects some suspense, helped by Affleck’s arrogantly menacing role. Affleck brings unpredictability to a rather predictable narrative even if the action scenes are reasonably exciting. There’s a sense more could have been added to the script with its bare bones feel diluting the compelling nature it needs.
Superficially thrilling, Runner Runner could have been better. Working as a by-the-numbers thriller, it at least doesn’t disgrace its performer’s reputation with the singer-to-cinema quota sure to remain intact.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6