Film Review: Runner Runner

Runner Runner

Runner Runner features an interesting enough premise, but the execution belies this fact.

Princeton postgraduate student Richie uses online gambling as a way to pay for his tuition fees. When he gambles his savings hoping to make his next instalment, Richie notices something unusual about the online casino. Richie travels to Costa Rica to track down the site’s owner, the mysterious Ivan Black…

Director Brad Furman’s film had the potential to be an entertaining and competent picture. The set up is interesting enough. However, the narrative is not particularly smart; shifts can be spotted a mile off.

The narration does not do Runner Runner any favours. The voiceover would have been fine as an introductory device, but it is carried the whole way through the film. The dialogue is poor at times, and the gambling analogies are overplayed. There are a couple of humorous lines, but more that are unintentionally funny.

For a crime thriller, Runner Runner lacks the tension required to really grip viewers. Furman fails to give the film a sense of apprehension in pivotal scenes. There is no sense of danger, even in what should be perilous situations. Similarly, despite the ongoing theme of corruption, the film feels sanitised rather than seedy.

Richie is a suitable protagonist, functioning as an everyman out of his depth. The constant voiceover does not really endear him to viewers however. Ivan is more of a caricature than anything else. Rebecca functions as a pretty face but not much else; the character is flimsy at best.

Performances in the film are adequate. Justin Timberlake is fine as Richie, while Gemma Arterton is given little to do besides wear flattering dresses. Ben Affleck offers a little swagger as Ivan, but is never really nasty. This is the fault of the material more than the performance.

Runner Runner is not irredeemable, but it is not a successful thriller either. A rather forgettable movie.

Film Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer is an enjoyable if not gripping legal thriller, overall. What appears at first to be a straightforward courtroom drama transforms into a rather bizarre crime case.

Mick Haller is a top defense lawyer who does most of his work out of the back of his Lincoln car. Haller’s services are requested by a wealthy young client, who strongly protests his innocence. As Haller takes on the case, he discovers that it is more complicated and dangerous than it initially seemed…

The Lincoln Lawyer is entertaining, but not without its flaws. The pacing in the film is uneven. There is too much build up before the more critical scenes commence. This leaves the significant sequences feeling rushed; it takes too long to this point. Moreover, the conclusion of the film is not as climactic as it should be, especially with the prolonged build up.

The case that is presented to Haller is really quite intriguing. It seems rather straightforward to begin with, but it quickly becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye. Rather than plain courtroom drama, The Lincoln Lawyer combines action and violence, making Brad Furman’s film more of a crime thriller. This works reasonably well, however the film would have functioned with just as much suspense, perhaps more so, if the action was kept in the confines of the courtroom.

The Lincoln Lawyer is very much a one-man show. That is not to say that Matthew McConaughey offers a particularly powerful performance. Rather, the character Haller dominates the entire film, leaving little room for the auxiliary characters. These side characters drift in and out of the film, with little time or exertion spent on developing them. It is a shame, as the movie could have been stronger if the supporting players had been given meatier roles.

Matthew McConaughey is adequate as Haller. It is refreshing to see McConaughey in something other than a romantic comedy. But while the actor exudes the charisma of the character, his mark is not so indelible in the more dramatic sequences. Ryan Phillippe is convincing as client Louis Roulet, offering a more commanding performance than the lead. Marisa Tomei, Willaim H. Macy and John Leguizamo are all good, but underused in their meagre roles.

Production values are decent, especially Jeff McEvoy’s editing. Music is also a plus; the film uses a mixture of classic and contemporary urban tunes. The Lincoln Lawyer is slick and entertaining, but lacks the execution to elevate the film beyond this.