Princeton grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake), believing he's been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Richie is seduced by Block's promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmanoeuvre the two forces closing in on him.
Richie is chasing a new version of the American dream: easy, instant and limitless wealth. Once on the Wall Street fast track, Richie lost everything when the market crashed and is now starting over, hustling his way through graduate school. After being cheated by an online gambling site and watching his tuition money disappear, Richie flies to Costa Rica to confront the gambling legend behind the site: Ivan Block.
Block is impressed by Richie's savvy and takes the younger man under his wing, promising to show Richie the ropes. Soon thereafter, Richie falls for Block's associate-sophisticated COO Rebecca Shafran (Gemma Arterton) - and he embraces a world that sees all of his fantasies come to life. But Richie soon learns that Block is wanted for racketeering, extortion and bribery and that FBI Special Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) is obsessed with bringing Block and his associates to justice. Block decides to pull up stakes and leave Richie behind as the fall guy.
With Shavers closing in, Richie must figure out a way to stay a step ahead of Block and Shavers - or risk a future behind bars.
Internet gambling is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, with outposts in exotic locations in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Dubai. Where these gambling hubs have sprung up, brick-and-mortar casinos have followed, their opulence sometimes dwarfing the U.S. gambling mecca of Las Vegas. While that city has annual revenues around $6 billion, the burgeoning online gambling sites and casinos of Macau - a tropical island a few hours from Hong Kong - did a combined $44 billion worth of business in 2011. Business practices at these exotic locales are murky at best; it is the Wild West all over again, but instead of guns, these white collar criminals use complex algorithms.
Despite the risks - statistical and criminal - online gambling holds innumerable attractions. In today's post-economic-meltdown world, young people have fewer job options than ever before. But that hasn't done anything to affect their desire to get-rich-quickly. This generation - consumers from early childhood - is used to getting what they want, when they want it, with the click of a mouse. They look to supposed leaders in the business world who take shortcuts that are morally suspect -- if not illegal -- and ask themselves, "If they can do it, why can't I?"
In this regard, Runner Runner is a cautionary tale about the dangers of easy money and unchecked ambition.
The lavish life of Runner Runner's gambling kingpin Ivan Block is what Runner Runner director Brad Furman calls, "the new American dream". He elaborates: "Technology has led us to a world where everything comes very quickly, which has expedited this concept of the American dream. Young people today want everything faster - especially money".
Justin Timberlake concurs with Furman's assessment of the American dream on steroids: "The American dream used to be about being rich and famous, but now it's to become rich and famous - as quickly as possible. The more access we have to things, the faster we want them. Just touch a button and you can have almost anything shipped to you.
"Today, people don't want to own a Cadillac; they want to invent their own car", Timberlake continues. "A generation of young people wants to start their own galaxy of entrepreneurial activities. People are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel and things are moving at warp speed. It's cut-throat. It's very cerebral and less about integrity, pride or honour, or any moral values".
Timberlake's Richie Furst is among those getting caught up in this irresistible but dangerous mindset. His guide and "benefactor" is Ivan Block. Block is the man behind the curtain of a billion-dollar online gambling empire. Affleck says the role provided an intriguing change of pace. "I've done a couple of parts where the characters I play were reserved, quiet and internal, but Ivan is always 'gunning the engine.' He's never at a loss for sexy monologues about life and he enjoys spinning all kind of sophistry to Richie. I thought that Ivan and his world would be a lot of fun to explore".
Like Timberlake, Affleck was intrigued by Runner Runner's depiction of the behind the scenes machinations of the new American dream: "Underneath this allure of fast and easy money is something inherently fraudulent, crooked, broken and wrong", he explains. "Everything now is about getting rich quickly, by any means necessary. The new corporate ethos is to cut the other guy's throat. In some circles, it's even considered healthy and to be prized".
Director Brad Furman came to Runner Runner fresh from the success of The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011. "I had a specific vision for Runner Runner, to create a journey down the rabbit hole for Richie", he notes. "The movie begins in New Jersey and then Richie ends up in Costa Rica and a fantastic but corrupt world".
Timberlake describes his character's descent: "Richie is a good guy in the wrong place, trying to do the right thing. He's constantly trying to hold on to his morals. Richie is a dreamer and an idealist who makes an honest mistake and must figure out how he's going to get out of it".
Ivan Block's own journey down the rabbit hole has yielded untold riches, which is all the enticement Richie needs for what ultimately becomes a rite of passage. "Ivan Block is the unapologetic mentor who says, 'Get what you can get and don't think twice about it,'" says Affleck. "Block wants to manipulate Richie, to get him to be part of his team. His mission is to groom Richie so he won't object to some of the darker things he sees".
Affleck notes that reading people is one of Block's chief strengths in distracting Richie from the tycoon's less savoury aspects: "Block knows what buttons to press on people and his most impressive trick is to distract them from his true motives. To Block, people are insecure and almost desperate to succeed. He knows people feel they've been kicked around and that we're taught to chase the dollar and to equate wealth with status, honour, success and manliness. So he holds up that wealth, which blinds Richie to what's really going on".
But the real allure of Block's world transcends money, says Furman. It's about something far more interesting - and dangerous. "The real equation in this movie is money times power equals sex. You ask men why they want money and power and the answer usually is: women. That's the bottom line".
The distaff representative of this world is Rebecca Shafren, Block's sharp and powerful COO, whose loyalty to Block is tested when she meets Richie. English-born Gemma Arterton portrays Rebecca. A gambling novice, Arterton nevertheless embraced the role. "I really liked the script, which I thought was clever and witty and it portrayed a world I wanted to investigate".
"I really like Rebecca", Arterton continues. "She's almost villainous in certain ways and she's never predictable. Runner Runner is about power, wealth and greed. I was intrigued by Rebecca' desire to live in this world, which is indicative of how many women believe they must act - in an almost masculine way - in order to succeed".
"When Richie arrives in Costa Rica and meets Rebecca, she is very much the business person in control; she's very tough, almost like a femme fatale", Arterton continues. "But she also enjoys having fun. She sees this sexy, young guy and thinks, 'I'll play around with him for a bit.' She finds out that he's actually quite clever and smart and he's different from other people she knows and works with. Rebecca has a real dilemma: she covets the wealth that comes with her position and yet also rediscovers her moral bearings through her relationship with Richie. And she begins to change her outlook on Block and her position in his empire".
As the Richie-Ivan-Rebecca dynamic unfolds, a new "player" emerges, who will impact their lives: FBI Special Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie), who's placed Block on Shavers' own Ten Most Wanted list. In gambling terms Shavers is the wildcard. He is playing Block, Richie and Rebecca and he is determined to circumvent international boundaries to put them all in a Federal prison.
Mackie describes how his dedicated if overly ambitious lawman came to relentlessly pursue Block and his cohorts: "Early on Shavers was just a guy working his way through the ranks. He was trying to make his name by cracking a big case. So he went after Block, but Block kept eluding him because he kept moving further away from Shavers' jurisdiction".
Shavers pursues Block to Costa Rica, where he has limited jurisdiction and room to move: "Shavers tries to find a way in - someone to give him Block. And he couldn't find that until Richie came along. Shavers understands there was something good in Richie that he could use to take down Block".
The Costa Rica of Runner Runner exists at the intersection of opulence and poverty and of regulation and corruption. It's where you can indulge any whim without consequence - until those desires grow too large. From glitzy casinos and bikini-dotted swimming pools to sweaty, crocodile-infested jungles, Runner Runner depicts an enticing, dangerous world where all the seven deadly sins are in play.
The story is fundamentally about wealth - the desire to have it and the impulse to protect it. That ethos is reflected in the look of the characters - slick and composed but tempered by the relaxing breeze of Costa Rica. Think: finely tailored suits, linens and body conscious styling.
For Runner Runner, the American Commonwealth of Puerto Rico doubled for Costa Rica. The production was in Puerto Rico for the entire summer of 2012.
Much of the filming took place in La Perla, an ocean front area squeezed into 650 yards between the northern historic city wall of San Juan and the Atlantic Ocean. The production design team was challenged to create a realistically lavish world in a country where there is a wide divide between rich and poor:
The most extravagant of these settings is Ivan Block's palatial estate, whose main house Affleck describes as "a big white monster with a Scarface-y vibe; it's appropriate for the character. What does it look like when a guy makes all this money? Take an 18-year-old's mindset and give him $20 million in cash and you end up with a giant party house and a lot of girls with tight clothes and a lot of alcohol, a lot of gambling and having a party every single night. That's the world we see when we step into Block's life".
"Runner Runner". It's an expression unknown to all but perhaps the most ardent gamblers. For the uninitiated, here's a quick explanation: In the game of poker Texas hold 'em, each player is dealt two "hole cards", which they keep to themselves. Then three cards are dealt face up - also known as The Flop. The fourth card dealt up is The Turn and the fifth card is The River. Sometimes a player will get the two cards he needs on The Turn and The River - a very lucky break that is also known as "runner runner".
For Runner Runner's Richie to avoid jail, he'll need an ingenious plan - and some very lucky breaks.
Justin Timberlake (Richie Furst) is one of the world's most recognized and accomplished entertainers. Originally rising to fame as a member of the phenomenally successful Pop Group *NSYNC, Timberlake went on to launch a solo career as a singer, songwriter, producer and actor that has earned him six Grammy Awards®, four Emmy Awards® and accolades from around the world.
After selling nearly 17 million albums worldwide for his two multi-platinum certified solo albums, Timberlake embarked on a career in both film and television, turning in well-received performances in such acclaimed films as Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan, Southland Tales, Shrek The Third and The Social Network while simultaneously delivering pop culture-defining appearances on Saturday Night Live.
For one of his first films, Timberlake received rave reviews for his role as FrankieBallenbacher in Universal's crime drama Alpha Dog, co-starring Emile Hirsh, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone. The Los Angeles Times said the movie is "a showcase of Timberlake, who turns in Alpha Dog's most nuanced performance". He was also applauded for his role alongside Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson in Black Snake Moan. In the summer of 2007, he joined the all-star cast of DreamWorks'Shrek The Third in which he provided the voice of Artie (the young King Arthur) and starred alongside Cameron Diaz, Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas. Soon after, Timberlake joined Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mandy Moore in Southland Tales from the director of the cult hit Donnie Darko. Justin appeared in the 2009 independent film, The Open Road, with Academy Award®-winner Jeff Bridges, Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton and Kate Mara.
Timberlake continued to strengthen his film portfolio in 2010 when he was praised for his portrayal of Napster founder Sean Parker, in David Fincher's Academy Award-nominated film, The Social Network. He was also the voice of Boo-Boo in Warner Bros.' animated hit, Yogi Bear. In 2011, Justin appeared in the successful comedies, Bad Teacher from Columbia Pictures starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal and Lucy Punch and Screen Gems' Friends With Benefits co-starring Mila Kunis. He also played the lead role of Will Salas in the Andrew Niccol-directed New Regency thriller In Time opposite Amanda Seyfried. In September 2012, Timberlake appeared in Trouble With The Curve alongside Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams. He also has a co-starring role in the Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis with Carrie Mulligan and Oscar Isaac due later this year.
Timberlake's success as an actor has also extended into television where he hosted two unforgettable episodes of Saturday Night Live that produced viral video sensations including the Emmy-winning "D**k in the Box" - a video that went on to be viewed over 100 million times on YouTube. Timberlake won a second Emmy Award in 2009 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live - a first in the show's nearly 30 year history. He won the same award again in 2011 and also picked up an additional Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. He has hosted MTV's Europe Music Awards, Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards and ESPN's ESPY Awards as well as co-hosted MTV's Movie Awards®. He also served as executive producer on the MTV reality show called The Phone. In 2011, Timberlake lent his voice to an episode of FOX's The Cleveland Show. His HBO special, Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveShow, also earned an Emmy nomination.
Gemma Arterton (Rebecca Shafran), since graduating from RADA in 2007, has already garnered an Empire Film award for Best Newcomer and a nomination for the Orange Rising Star award at the 2011 BAFTAs. Gemma has most recently been seen in the highly anticipated Byzantium directed by Neil Jordan and written by Moira Buffini, in which she stars as vampire Clara opposite Saoirse Ronan.
Gemma has just finished filming the psychological thriller The Voices in Berlin, starring alongside Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick. She has also been announced as the title role in upcoming film Gemma Bovery starring opposite Fabrice Luchini. Directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) it's an adaptation of a Posy Simmonds graphic novel and will see Gemma in her first foreign language role.
Earlier this year, Gemma was seen in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring opposite Jeremy Renner and in the London-set comedic drama Song for Marion, alongside Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp.
Last year, Gemma voiced the character of Shelley in A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures, an animated feature including voices from John Hurt and Dominic Cooper. She also starred in the title role in Tamara Drewe directed by award-winning director Stephen Frears, opposite Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans and Tamsin Greig. In 2010, Gemma appeared alongside Sam Worthington as the goddess Io in Louis Letterier's remake of the 1981 epic Clash of the Titans, based on the classic Greek myth. She played the lead female role of Princess Tamina in Disney's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, directed by Mike Newell; she starred alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Sir Ben Kingsley. In 2009, Gemma starred in J Blakeson's independent film The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a thrilling tale of kidnapping and intrigue in which she played the title role alongside Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan.
Gemma starred in Richard Curtis' The Boat that Rocked, a period comedy set in the 1960s, also starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Emma Thompson. In 2008, Gemma starred as iconic Bond Girl Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Forster, starring Daniel Craig and Judi Dench. Her other film credits include Guy Ritchie's gangster film RocknRolla, Three and Out, directed by Jonathan Gershfield and the classic remake of St Trinians directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, for which she was nominated for an Empire Award and won a National Movie Award.
For television, Gemma's heart-rending portrayal of the heroic Tess in the BBC adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, also starring Eddie Redmayne and Hans Matheson, earned her rave reviews and numerous award nominations. She also played the role of Elizabeth Bennett in ITVs costume drama Lost in Austen. In 2007 she also starred in the BBC's Capturing Mary, directed by Stephen Poliakoff, in which she played the character Liza; also starring were Maggie Smith, David Walliams and Ruth Wilson.
In early 2010 Gemma make her West End debut at the Garrick alongside Rupert Friend and Tamsin Greig, in Douglas Carter Beane's award-winning Broadway comedy The Little Dog Laughed. She returned to the stage in November 2010 at the internationally renowned Almeida Theatre in Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, for which she received critical acclaim for her spellbinding turn as Hilda Wangel.
Gemma's previous theatre credits include the role of Rosaline at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Love's Labour's Lost directed by Dominic Dromgoole. After gaining an award for Best Supporting Actress for Kent, she gained a full scholarship to RADA}, where she took lead roles in productions such as An Ideal Husband, Titus Andronicus and The Beggars Opera.
Anthony Mackie (Shavers), who was classically trained at the Juilliard School of Drama, was discovered after receiving rave reviews while playing Tupac Shakur in the off Broadway Up Against the Wind. Mackie made an auspicious film debut as Eminem's nemesis, Papa Doc, in Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile. His performance caught the attention of Spike Lee, who subsequently cast Mackie in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival Masters Program selection Sucker Free City and She Hate Me. He also appeared in Clint Eastwood's Academy Award-winning Million Dollar Baby, opposite Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Eastwood, as well as in Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate, alongside Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber and the comedy The Man, starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Mackie earned IFP Spirit and Gotham Award nominations for his performance in Rodney Evans' Brother to Brother, which won the 2004 Special Dramatic Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. In 2005, he appeared opposite David Strathairn, Timothy Hutton and Leelee Sobieski in Heavens Fall, based on the historic Scottsboro Boys' trials, an independent feature that premiered at the 2006 SXSW Film Festival in Austin.
Mackie also had five features on movie screens in 2006. In addition to We Are Marshall, he starred in Half Nelson, with Ryan Gosling, adapted from director Ryan Fleck's Sundance-winning short Gowanus Brooklyn; in Preston Whitmore's Crossover; in Frank E. Flowers ensemble crime drama Haven, opposite Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton; and in the film adaptation of Richard Price's Freedomland, starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Mackie was seen in several theatrical performances both on and off Broadway. Mackie made his Broadway debut as the stuttering nephew, Sylvester, alongside Whoopi Goldberg in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Next he was seen as the lead in Regina King's modern retelling of Chekov's The Seagull, starred in Stephen Belber's McReele for the Roundabout Theatre Company and starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Soldier's Play as a character made famous by Denzel Washington 20 years prior. Most recently, Mackie was part of the production of August Wilson's 20th Century at the esteemed Kennedy Center where they performed stage readings of all 10 plays in August Wilson's cycle. Mackie participated in three of the ten shows and hopes to return to the stage soon.
In 2009 Mackie was seen as Sgt. Jt Sanborn in Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, a film that not only earned Anthony an Independent Spirit Award nomination but also earned Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing and 3 other nods. 2009 also saw Mackie re-visit the role of Tupac Shakur in Fox Searchlight's Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious and he also starred as Major William Bowman in the Dreamworks film Eagle Eye.
In 2010 Mackie returned to Broadway starring in Martin McDonough's latest creation A Behanding in Spokane. He also reunited with Kerry Washington in the drama Night Catches Us which was released by Magnolia Pictures on December 3rd, 2010. In 2011 Mackie was seen in Universal Pictures The Adjustment Bureau, which also featured Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, as well as the Disney/Dreamworks feature Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman.
Recently, Mackie appeared in the feature Man on a Ledge with Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks; the Timur Bekmambetov directed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; and the feature 10 Years, in which he starred with Channing Tatum, Kate Mara, Rosario Dawson and Justin Long. Mackie is featured in crime drama Gangster Squad which also stars Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Mackie most recently appeared in the Michael Bay directed Pain & Gain, starring alongside Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Film was released by Paramount on April 26th, 2013 and opened up as the #1 film earning over 20 million in its first weekend..
Mackie will soon join the Marvel Comics family playing Sam Wilson/The Falcon in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Mackie will be starring alongside Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan. Captain America: The Winter Solider is set to be released on April 4, 2014.
Ben Affleck (Ivan Block) is a two-time Academy Award winner who has been recognized for his work as a director, actor, writer and producer.
Affleck most recently directed, produced and starred in the award-winning hit Argo, a fact-based drama about the then-classified mission to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran during the hostage crisis. The most acclaimed film of 2012, Argo swept the year's top honors, including the Oscar®, Golden Globe® and BAFTA Award for Best Picture. Affleck also won Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critics' Choice Awards for Best Director and was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actor. In addition, he won a Directors Guild of America Award; a Producers Guild of America Award, shared with George Clooney and Grant Heslov; and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® as a member of the film's ensemble, which won for Outstanding Motion Picture Cast. The cast also garnered Best Ensemble Awards from the National Board of Review, Hollywood Film Awards and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Among its many other honors, the film won Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Editing, earned four more Oscar nominations and was named one of the top 10 outstanding films of the year by the American Film Institute (AFI), as well as numerous critics.
Affleck made his directorial debut in 2007 with the feature Gone Baby Gone, for which he earned several critics groups' awards, including the Best Directorial Debut Award from the National Board of Review. Additionally, he won the Breakthrough Director of the Year Award at the 2007 Hollywood Film Festival. Affleck also co-wrote the screenplay for the film, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel.
In 2010, Affleck directed and starred in The Town, in addition to co-writing the screenplay. The film was named among the top 10 films of the year by the AFI and the cast won the National Board of Review Award for Best Ensemble. Affleck received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for The Town, which also brought Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations to co-star Jeremy Renner.
His upcoming projects also include David Fincher's Gone Girl, Live by Night, based on the Dennis Lehane novel and a biopic about notorious mobster Whitey Bulger, in which he and Matt Damon will star.
Affleck first came to prominence in 1997 with the acclaimed drama Good Will Hunting, which he starred in and co-wrote with Damon. The two won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as a Golden Globe Award and Humanitas Prize. The following year, Affleck starred in John Madden's Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, sharing in a SAG Award for Outstanding Motion Picture Cast.
In 2006, Affleck earned widespread praise for his portrayal of ill-fated actor George Reeves in the noir drama Hollywoodland. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where he won the coveted Volpi Award for Best Actor. He also received Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Best Actor, as well as the Best Actor Award at the Hollywood Film Festival.
Affleck more recently starred in Terrence Malick's To the Wonder. He has also starred in such diverse films as The Company Men, State of Play, He's Just Not That Into You, Jersey Girl, Daredevil, The Sum of All Fears, Changing Lanes, Pearl Harbor, Boiler Room, Forces of Nature and Armageddon.
In 2000, Affleck partnered with Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Sean Bailey to form LivePlanet, Inc. Their first endeavour, Project Greenlight, premiered in 2001 on HBO and drew critical, audience and industry attention for its behind-the-scenes look at the challenges faced by a first-time filmmaker. The second season of Project Greenlight aired on HBO in 2003, with a third season on Bravo in 2005. All three seasons were nominated for Emmy Awards.
In addition to his successful film career, Affleck is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist. In March 2010, he founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on the mission of helping the people of eastern Congo support local community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in the long-troubled region. Affleck is also a longtime political activist, as well as a strong supporter of many charitable organizations, including Feeding America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, A-T Children's Project and the Jimmy Fund.