Dull and Dullard: "Hey, what was this movie about again?" "Eh, who cares?"
We all just have to make peace with the realization that there is one thing that Justin Timberlake can't do. He can sing, he can dance, he can play a memorable supporting character in a movie, he excels at comedy, but the man simply can't play the protagonist in a drama. Runner Runner is the latest movie to make the case against Timberlake in a starring dramatic role, and it's his maybe his worst performance yet (at least In Time had a fun sci-fi premise to distract you). It's not that Timberlake is wooden, or even that he's unbelievable as Richie Furst, a financial whiz of a Princeton grad student. He's certainly not hard to look at. He's just not that interesting. And he's not the only uninteresting thing about Runner Runner, either.
Furst, the son of a gambling addict, loses his life savings playing internet poker. He realizes the game was rigged, so he flies to Costa Rica to give the owner of the poker site, an American expatriate named Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), a piece of his mind. Block winds up hiring Furst instead. (If you're asking questions about the premise already, you're not going to enjoy this movie.) Affleck certainly seems to have it in him to play a douchey online poker magnate, but for whatever reason, he decided not to bother playing that character in Runner Runner. Instead, he gives a lazy, charmless performance that feels a little like late-stage Travolta: Self-impressed, unnatural, and about as subtle as a bag of Oscars to the face.
It's a standard setup: Gifted young man with a dark past gets drawn into a moneymaking scheme that seems low-risk and high-reward, only to learn that he's in over his head. A lot of women hang around in skimpy lingerie, but the movie is really quite tame for an R-rated thriller. He falls for the boss's woman (Gemma Arterton, pretty but dull as everyone else) and he ignores his friend's warnings to back out before things take a turn for the criminal. (But then, it's easy to ignore a warning when it's as hackneyed as this: "I understand the path you're on, but you should pack it in, pal.") A sketchy FBI agent (Anthony Mackie, giving the only fun performance in the movie) is trying to get Furst to flip on Block. Will Furst ever get out from under Block's wicked machinations? Who cares?