New Online Poker Film Runner Runner Not Exactly Scoring Rave Reviews

Runner Runner, the new Hollywood movie centered around online poker that stars Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, and Gemma Atherton, doesn’t come out until tomorrow. But, if reviews of the film are to serve as any indication, the film might not be poised to be the breakthrough hit of the fall.

Reviewers are pretty much in agreement, with most saying the film is middling at best. Runner Runner scores a dismal 22 percent fresh rating on the review aggregating web site Rotten Tomatoes.

Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph borrowed a bit of poker terminology and said of the movie, “Runner Runner starts off with a solid draw, then folds on the flop.” Other reviewers weren’t much kinder.

Main issue is a poorly constructed story, according to reviewers

Though the film certainly hasn’t suffered from a lack of advance chatter – particularly from the online poker community, which has been talking and writing about Runner Runner for months – the talk from critics mostly centers around the film’s weak plot line.

Runner Runner has star power and an apparently healthy promotional budget (TV ads have been running widely for a few weeks now), but nonetheless has failed to inspire those who have seen it.

A review originally published by the San Francisco Chronicle and reprinted on, a local Texas news site, called Runner Runner “less than mediocre.”

“The clumsiness of the storytelling is apparent from the first minutes,” wrote the Chronicle’s critic, Mick Lasalle.

“At first it’s intangible. You can just feel the filmmakers moving things into place, like heavy furniture they’re accidentally dropping on their toes,” Lasalle said of Runner Runner.

The storyline centers around Timberlake, a New Jersey graduate student who travels to Costa Rica in an effort to recover thousands of dollars he lost playing at an online poker web site. The online poker room is headed up by Affleck, whom many reviewers agree is the best part of the movie. Timberlake soon finds himself involved in Affleck’s seedy world and surprise, trouble ensues.

Online gambling proponents see opportunity to use film as educational tool

Though fans of poker, who looked forward to the film as a potential entry into the genre of classic poker films like its predecessor, Rounders, may be disappointed in the film, there are others who might find even greater dismay.

As we noted last month, some pro-gambling organizations, particularly those in favor of regulated online poker in the U.S. as well as the legalization of Internet-based casino games, were hoping to use the release of the film as a means of educating the public about the importance of online gambling regulation at the federal level.

One such group, powerful lobbying group the American Gaming Association (AGA) has planned a media campaign surrounding Runner Runner to push for such regulation at the national level. With the government shut down due to a partisan budget impasse and the movie receiving less-than-favorable reviews, such a marketing ploy looks as if it couldn’t come at a worse time.

As critic Mick Lasalle simply put it, “Runner Runner is a losing bet.” And for the time being, the quest for federal regulation of online gambling in the United States might be as well.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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