Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake try to outdo each other with street smarts, suntans and dress sense in this generic thriller set in the world of online gambling.

It's a mentor v protege story from the writers of Ocean's 11. It begins when Princeton University student Richie Furst (Timberlake) heads to Costa Rica to tell gambling kingpin Ivan Block (Affleck) that his website cheated him.

Ivan takes the news well and offers the plucky Richie a job running his operation.

It's not a convincing set-up, with red flags all over the place. Ivan is charming but clearly a badass with intentions to use Richie; and Richie, who has had some complicated life experiences, is naively enthusiastic about working for an American who can't set foot back home.


Costa Rica makes a fresh setting, and online gambling is arguably new territory, but the action plays out like most organised crime thrillers of the past 20 years.

There are local politicians and police to bribe, local gangs to placate, the CIA to avoid and threats to be made - and carried out. With business done from luxurious houses and superyachts Richie thinks life can't get any better, until a computer nerd working in the basement of a casino discovers the truth about Block's empire.

And, what do you know, all is not all as it seems, and the cat-and-mouse game between mentor and protege begins.

A lot of attention has gone into how Runner Runner looks.

The girls are sexy, the clothes retro cool and everybody is tanned in the extreme - think Miami Vice transported to Costa Rica. Director Brad Furman keeps the action moving briskly in the hope we don't realise just how light and loose this story really is.

But, no matter how good all this looks, there's not enough tension to keep us on our toes and not enough depth of character to make us care how it all plays out.

Stars: 2/5
Cast: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton
Director: Brad Furman
Running time: 91 mins
Rating: M (violence, offensive language and sex scenes)
Verdict: Slick but generic and derivative thriller