Could it be that we’ve all been a bit, well, kind to Justin Timberlake? Did we all expect so little of him that, when he turned up in ‘The Social Network’ very skilfully playing himself, we got a bit overexcited? He’s not exactly dreadful in ‘Runner Runner’, and the limp script doesn’t do him any favours, but there’s nothing in Timberlake’s performance to suggest he’s fit for anything more than the occasional romcom.
He plays Richie Furst, a Princeton student and online gambling ace who – after being ripped off on a poker site owned by gaming mogul Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) – decides to set off for Costa Rica and confront the big man face to face. This being the movies, Block offers our plucky hero a job, and it’s not long before Richie is up to his eyeballs in money and chicks, notably the boss’s right-hand woman (Gemma Arterton, so vividly coloured she may have been taking skincare tips from Dale Winton).
This is real by-the-numbers stuff: we know it won’t be long before Richie gets in too deep, realises his boss is a psycho and hatches a scheme to get free. Timberlake is puppy-dog keen – look at me, I’m acting! – yet the rest of the cast just look bored: no mean feat when you’re feeding a guy to the crocodiles, but somehow Affleck manages it. There’s a gripping, timely thriller to be made about the perils of internet gaming. This isn’t it.