Ben Affleck may be on a roll in 2013, with Oscar-winning "Argo," and his casting as Batman in Zack Snyder's Superman-Batman installment, as well as the co-lead in David Fincher's "Gone Girl," but "Runner Runner" won't go down as another victory in his banner year. Critics have only dismal things to say about the thriller, which co-stars Justin Timberlake; the two leads play men caught up in a dangerous online gambling enterprise in Costa Rica.
"Runner Runner" hits theaters October 4; as Variety predicts, the film may very well not "escape the forces of 'Gravity,'" Alfonso Cuaron's wildly praised sci-fi epic, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, which has its release the same day.
What's actually up onscreen in this vaguely ambitious but tawdry melodrama falls into an in-between no-man's-land that endows it with no distinction whatsoever, a work lacking both style and insight into the netherworld it seeks to reveal. Despite an intriguing set-up and Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake heading the cast, this Fox release holds a losing box-office hand.
Whatever his shortcomings as a director, Brad Furman clearly has a knack for timely casting. 2011’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” was a watchable yet unremarkable courtroom drama elevated above its station by a lead turn from Matthew McConaughey just as his late-career resurgence was taking flight. Debut feature “The Take” boasted a key supporting part from recent Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale. And now with “Runner Runner,” Furman snags Justin Timberlake in an intermission between blockbuster album releases, and Ben Affleck between directing an Oscar-winning film and beginning his term at Wayne Manor. Yet despite his stacked deck of a cast, “Runner Runner” adds up to little more than a charmless, paint-by-numbers thriller unlikely to escape the forces of “Gravity” in its early October release.
Despite what the title suggests, this isn't one of those running around, race-against-time thrillers. The action moves at a breakneck pace, but it all becomes a meaningless blur with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake hardly breaking a sweat, except in the sunshine in Costa Rica where they're running a dodgy online gambling empire.
However exotic the locations and starry the stars, there’s no escaping this is The Devil’s Advocate of online gambling. Fold.
Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck give their best poker faces but ultimately fail to convince you to gamble your cash away on this limp, unoriginal story of a man out of his depth.