Runner Runner: a safe gamble? by Katelyn Holm

It’s true: Everybody gambles. Whether it’s with money, time or happiness, everybody gambles.

Runner Runner stars it-man Justin Timberlake, who plays genius Princeton gamer, Richie Furst. With his tuition on the line, Furst wages everything he has on the Internet table in one high-stakes game of poker.

Though several hands go his way, he loses all of his winnings to a cyber-opponent. But after investigating his loss, Furst realizes he has been cheated. He immediately flies to Costa Rica to hunt down gambling tycoon, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).

To the surprise of viewers, Block not only reimburses Furst’s losses, but offers him a job at Midnight Black, the epitome of gaming industries, with the promise of a seven-figure salary in the first few months. However, this isn’t even close to the resolution of the film.

Affleck executes his role with arrogance and an all-around unlikable vibe. He isn’t Argo quality by any stretch of the imagination, but the actor still pulls off an intriguing performance.

While on the job, Furst realizes he has entered into more than just a game of cards or chips. Now, the graduate student faces dangerously powerful and rich money launderers, gangsters and professional hustlers.

But it may seem a little overdone. Sure, violence and drugs plague corrupt industries like the one Block runs. The movie exaggerates these things a little too unrealistically, though.

Regardless, Timberlake’s natural demeanor fits his role perfectly. He projects the confidence of a successful man, yet still maintains an innocence in comparison to the dark deals being made. Audiences feel invested in the character, which is something a lot of movies today lack.

Soon, the FBI receives a tip that Block’s dealings have been far from clean. In fact, the shark has weighted all of the online tables and takes profits from all of the players.

Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) confronts Furst, hoping he will be an informant for the authorities and incriminate Block for his illegal dealings. Because Furst fears jail time and the fact that the Costa Rican government could refuse his entrance into America, he tells Block of the confrontation with Shavers. Wrong move.

The special agent just doesn’t seem intimidating, though, and audiences are never really fearful that any of the government investigators could do real harm to any of the characters in the film.

A little excursion to Block’s hideaway reveals a lake that is home to two alligators. But these are no ticking clock, Peter Pan alligators. These reptiles eat anything that smells remotely like chicken, which is unfortunate for the two men covered in poultry fat who are forced into the water. Block makes his point with Furst, who promises to keep quiet about anything he knows.

In the whirlwind of the remaining 60 minutes, Furst must exhaust all his connections, even the secret stash of cash in the bran cereal. After all, the maids eat everything except the bran.

Though the film probably won’t earn a spot on anyone’s “Top Five Favorites” or stay in the DVD player on repeat, the action and compelling subject matter make for a success at the box office.

Leaving the theatre, one thing is for sure. With the second part of the 20/20 Experience album on shelves now, October will prove to be a good month for Timberlake.

Critics should say “Bye bye bye,” because the former N*Sync member has a huge future ahead of him. He may not be a Princeton graduate or FBI informant in real life, but the singer, dancer and actor will, indeed, leave audiences impressed.

Author: Katelyn Holm

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