At least there’s something to be said for the bad movies: The really awful ones where it seems like everyone involved was either stoned, apathetic, half mentally impaired or some combination of the bunch. Not “so bad it’s good”, so much as “so bad it transcends criticism”. There’s nothing you can say about it without almost feeling bad – except we don’t feel bad and we tear it apart and laugh at it and it becomes a cult phenomenon like Birdemic.
These movies are now being intentionally made under the guise of being ‘so bad they’re good’ (see: Machete and Sharknado; see also, the ire that I have for anyone who views it in a positive light) and the world is run amuck with people trying to make bad movies, people trying to make good movies that make bad movies, the few good movies that actually get out there, and the people stuck in the middle with what might be the worst cinematic offense: below average movies.
These movies aren’t so bad they’re unwatchable nor are they so bad they’re good. They’re not fun to laugh at and they’re not fun to get drunk and watch. They’re simply there. Not trying to do anything different. Not trying to do anything special. Just there, with every single thing involved being of the “been there, done that a million times over” variety. When you walk out, you feeling nothing except the popcorn and soda in your stomach and the wistful sort of melancholy that comes from knowing that those 90 minutes might have been spent doing something, anything, better than seeing that movie. Things that come to mind: walking, thinking, sitting, staring, writing, hiding, sighing, eating, drinking, living, breathing.
Have you ever seen one of those movies? I think we all have. We just have to think hard because you truly can’t remember anything about them. There and gone, like a poop down a toilet.
With that being said, Runner Runner is a crime movie about a young man who needs to pay for his tuition and decides to do so through online gambling that may be less than ethical. It stars Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, and Anthony Mackie.
Okay, so it’s obvious that the intention from the beginning was to not make this seem like The Social Network as much as possible…while also ripping off The Social Network. So you do have the genius and the need for money, and the brilliant idea (fixing the online gambling scene as opposed to cornering the online social market) but honestly people, these could be in any first rate crime thriller. Okay, so Justin Timberlake is in it, but come on…he plays the main character genius this time around! There’s a difference.
Oh and there’s action in this! Yes, there’s danger and people getting beat up and JTim is under threat of death by mean guy Ben Affleck unless he stays working for him! This would absolutely set it apart from The Social Network and be totally its own thing…but none of it ever really feels like a threat, or if there was more than a handful of scenes that could be considered “action”. Mostly, Justin and Ben talk. You know Justin is going to make it to the end. You know he’s gonna drive away with the babe (Gemma Arterton, doing a really good interpretation of ‘eye candy’). You know Ben Affleck’s ‘edgy morally gray criminal (‘or is he’…yeah, that archetype)’ is gonna get some kind of comeuppance for the things he does to the main character throughout the movie, and you know that the movie’s gonna be over. Thankfully.
Open this first beer and take a long drink. You’ve earned it.
Beers Three & Four
Guys, this is not a good movie. Timberlake simply can’t hold his weight, much like his star turn in the interesting but similarly afflicted In Time, and we’ve got to be wondering if this guy’s charisma is enough for the silver screen. Affleck sleeps through the entire thing – he obviously can’t be bothered preparing for Batman. Mackie’s role gets me excited for his supporting part in the upcoming Captain America sequel, but that’s about it. The writing’s a mess – The Social Network similarities bleed through to all aspects of it, and the upcoming The Fifth Estate makes it obvious that we will not be seeing the last of this template for dramatic films. With every success comes a rash of imitators trying to replicate that success in its wake, and usually they fail. Runner Runner fails. The sum of its parts just makes you think of the better movies those parts came from. It doesn’t fail spectacularly or particularly memorably – it just fails.
If you want to watch a couple of really big celebrities biding their time and collecting money while not really doing anything of note on the screen, wrapped up in something that calls itself a thriller but is really just an exercise in checking the boxes on the thriller screenplay ‘do it yourself’ list (after it was updated by The Social Network, of course) then this is absolutely the movie for you. Just, take my advice, and drink at least 4 beers before it. It’s the only way you’re gonna have any fun in a theatre that’s showing this.
Take a sip:
– Any time you’re reminded of a better movie.
– Any time you zone out in the theatre.
– Any time you call a plot development from several lightyears away.
– Any time Ben Affleck looks like he just woke up.
Have a drink on me if:
– You left. Good call.