Ben Affleck may be suiting up soon to play iconic superhero Batman, but here he explores his villainous side as gambling kingpin Ivan Block. When one of Block's poker websites swindles Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) out of tuition money, the bright but broke kid travels to Costa Rica to confront the international entrepreneur. Block is impressed by Richie's savvy, offers him a job, and promises him limitless cash, ladies, and luxury. But, when FBI Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) tries to bring Block and associates to justice, Richie has to find a way to outwit them all — or end up in a Costa Rican prison, ay. Want to gamble on Runner Runner? Ante up with these five facts:
Richie Rich's Girlfriend and Father: Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace) plays Block's COO and lover, Rebecca Shafran. Richie soon falls for this slinky, shapely sophisticate who purrs with a British accent, but he better watch his sexyback. John Heard (Home Alone) costars as Richie's absent, gambleholic dad, and recently played another loser character with a different addiction — booze — in the hilarious crap-fest Sharknado.
Three Aces in the Hole: Writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien must be Hollywood's go-to guys for scripts about gambling. Before penning Runner Runner, they wrote the Matt Damon drama Rounders, the casino-heist caper Ocean's Thirteen (also with Damon and, well, everyone), and the poker TV series Tilt. Director Brad Furman comes to the table with no previous experience on a gambling movie, but he did helm the Matthew McConaughey legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer. And that's a decent card to play.
Exotic Locale & Palatial Pad: Runner Runner was shot during the summer of 2012, with the American Commonwealth of Puerto Rico doubling for Costa Rica. The production design team was tasked with creating a realistically lavish world in a country where there's a great divide between rich and poor. One of the most extravagant settings is Block's estate, a posh party mansion with lots of gambling, free-flowing booze, and scantily clad chicas. Eat your heart out, Gatsby.
Run Richie Run: The movie takes its title from a poker term, for when a player gets two winning cards in Texas Hold 'Em. Though a runner runner is strangely never depicted in the film, the lucky play still serves as metaphor. Richie is also a literal runner — he runs dangerous jobs for Block, runs from scary thugs and officers, and even makes a frantic run for the border. Unfortunately, the by-the-numbers script runs out of fresh ideas long before the final running time.
Danger Danger: As Runner Runner points out, online gambling has become a huge industry as well as an enormous risk, with Americans spending $2.6 billion annually on illegal offshore gambling websites. The American Gaming Association, which has been pushing for a legitimate online poker market, launched a marketing campaign to portray Runner Runner as a "cautionary tale," a reminder of what can happen in the shady world of unregulated online gaming.