Brad Furman’s Runner Runner wants to be a mouse-in-a-maze thriller with his protagonist caught between a rock and a hard place desperately seeking a way to extricate himself. With tone and pace much like his previous The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner had the potential to be a gripping thriller, but the attempt mostly fails due to lightweight acting and a lack of development in its plotting. The ingredients are here for something special, but the result feels underdone and rather lacking flavor.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 01/07/2013
Princeton graduate student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) has been paying his tuition with winnings from on-line gambling and acting as a facilitator leading university students to lucrative gambling websites. But when a rigged poker game at mogul Ivan Block’s (Ben Affleck) Midnight Block site robs him of almost $18K, he flies down to Costa Rica to confront the millionaire and inform him of his site’s dishonesty. Grateful for Richie’s honesty and courtesy, Block offers him a job as his right-hand man at a big salary and many opportunities to get into serious money which he immediately pounces on. But as he gets deeper into Block’s business dealings, he finds a world of corruption and real danger, and when an FBI agent (Anthony Mackie) gives him the opportunity to squeal on his boss or face years in prison, Richie finds himself looking for a way to keep both his freedom and his integrity.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The Brian Koppelman-David Levien screenplay sets up Richie’s dilemma of life-threatening danger in much the same way The Firm put its protagonist in between the law and his corrupt bosses with no obvious way out. But The Firm gave itself breathing room to explain the dangers of every possible alternative the main character might face and then watch his plans put into motion (while saving some last minute surprises for the audience; it ran more than two and a half hours but was so well directed and breathlessly plotted that the time flew by). This film’s ninety minutes doesn’t do full justice to fleshing out Richie’s conundrum and the hopelessness of most of his avenues of escape, and the ultimate outcome seems more coincidental and convenient than through any clever machinations that Richie has accomplished. Director Brad Furman keeps his camera moving (it circles Richie as he loses his bankroll early on) and provides some local Costa Rican color (cockfights, dingy warehouses contrasting with the coastal splendors of sea and sky), but everything seems too rushed; even a vicious beating Richie absorbs from the gaming commissioner (Yul Vazquez) and his henchmen isn’t milked for its dangerous undertones. And there’s a rudimentary romance thrown in for good measure that really generates zero heat.
Justin Timberlake gives a rather surface performance, full of easy charm but lacking much depth and certainly not showing any degree of online gaming expertise. Ben Affleck is more substantial as the smiling cobra of the piece: amenable and welcoming until he’s got you close enough for the kill (though the script lets him down in the last reel). Gemma Arterton’s role as the glamorous sidekick for Block and as Richie’s love interest is negligible; there’s no chemistry at all between either of the men with her. Anthony Mackie offers a rather standard FBI blowhard, and Yul Vazquez as the Costa Rican official who demands larger and larger bribes to turn his head is workmanlike if stereotypical. John Heard gets a couple of decent scenes as Richie’s weak father who succumbs to his gambling addiction but who wants more for his son.
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully replicated in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Contrast runs a little hot even in scenes not set in the tropics making flesh tones deeply tanned. Sharpness is generally excellent with an occasional moment here and there with focus issues. Color is deeply saturated but never to the point of blooming. Black levels are very good to great. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix begins very nicely with especially vivid use of the surround channels for multiple voice work. Later, ambiance in Costa Rica is a little neglected in the surrounds as the mix veers more toward the front channels. Christophe Beck’s music does get a nice treatment throughout the soundstage. Dialogue has been well recorded and resides mostly in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Deleted Scenes (10:40, HD): seven scenes may be watched individually or in montage form.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
House of Cards (17:00, HD): a brief history of online gambling is offered by Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, and a number of historians, gaming experts, and FBI personnel.
Theatrical Trailer (2:25, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Robocop, The Counselor, Don Jon.
DVD/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
An average thriller with a story which could have used some fleshing out and development, Runner Runner will likely make a decent rental for those anxious to see the stars in their latest venture. The Blu-ray disc does boast excellent picture and sound quality even if the drama isn’t quite as complex or involving as it could have been.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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