‘Runner Runner’ Reviews: What the Critics Think of Justin Timberlake-Ben Affleck Thriller

The gambling thriller earned a dreck-worthy 9 percent “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Critics are advising audiences to sprint in the opposite direction from “Runner Runner.”

The new thriller earned a dreck-worthy 9 percent “rotten” rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. To put that in perspective, recent notorious turkeys “The Lone Ranger” and “R.I.P.D.” received “rotten” scores of 31 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

It’s a huge step back for Ben Affleck after scoring a Best Picture Oscar for “Argo,” with many reviewers lamenting that the film was reminiscent of the kind of paycheck roles (2003’s “Paycheck,” for one) that got the actor into so much trouble in the mid-aughts.

“Runner Runner” opened Friday, with Justin Timberlake in the lead role as a Princeton college student who gets sucked into the world of online gambling.

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TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde hated the film, but at least he enjoyed Affleck’s work as Ivan, a suave internet-gambling kingpin, crediting the actor with nearly saving the thriller. Mostly, though, he just wanted to fold.

“As the plot grinds toward the climax, the intended suspense never surfaces; the material is so utterly familiar that you’ll see every twist coming,” Duralde wrote.

In the New York Times, A.O. Scott let out a loud yawn. Despite Timberlake’s impressive sex scene with Gemma Arterton and an ocean of champagne and bling, he found the film dull.

“The premise of ‘Runner Runner’ seems a little dated, since the poker craze peaked around 2006, and operations like Ivan’s were shut down in 2011,” Scott wrote. “But the deeper problem is that it feels like a halfhearted bluff and has the stale smell of yesterday’s after-shave.”

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Ann Hornaday also found the film to be derivative and perfunctory, panning it in the Washington Post for failing to provide its characters with such plot essentials as logic and motivation.

Timberlake didn’t escape her scorn. “Timberlake has been good in movies (‘Black Snake Moan,’ ‘The Social Network’ and the upcoming ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ are just three examples), but here he takes on the by-the-numbers blandness of his formulaic surroundings,” Hornaday wrote. “The film might take its name from poker subculture, but it lacks all the urgency, single-mindedness and swiftness that the title implies at its most literal. ‘Runner Runner’ is a bummer. Bummer.”

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It’s not the year’s worst movie, but it may be the dullest, the Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez opined.

“Here is a film in which a man is covered in chicken fat and thrown into a pit of crocodiles, and you still can barely keep your eyes open,” he wrote.

Although Duralde and Scott seemed to enjoy Affleck’s work, the New York Post’s Kyle Smith said the actor was given license to explore his worst acting impulses. He hailed the film as the return of “Badfleck.”

“Ben, bless his impressive directorial skills, on camera still looks only vaguely responsive to external stimuli, as if he’s waiting for his turn at the keg at the University of Vermont,” Smith wrote. “He plays offshore gambling tycoon Ivan Block, as in block of wood. That’d be soft wood, like pine, or maybe balsa.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Betsy Sharkey noted that the film too often seems like drab primer on the intricacies of gambling.

“The struggles in the movie are with the moments when life and liberty are on the line,” Sharkey wrote. “The ones that should put you on the edge of your seat are more likely to have you glancing at your watch.”

At this point in the round-ups we usually try to find a few positive reviews, but, well, they don’t really exist. So in summation, wait for it on basic cable — or do yourself a favor and go see “Gravity” instead.