Apr 23, 2014

Review: The Runner (1999)

The Runner delves into the world of sports betting with a main character who has a gambling addiction. It's set in Las Vegas with Ron Eldard playing the protagonist who goes by the name of Edward. There are some interesting moments that show potential but for the most part, The Runner is a letdown.

The premise itself sounds good. Edward bets big and loses big from sports gambling that forces him to work as a runner for a criminal gambler played by John Goodman. His name? Deepthroat. He's a brave man to go by that name. For the most part, Deepthroat spends his time away from the action, chewing up scenes on the phone while he has Edward and his other hired hands to do his gambling work. Sounds good but there are problems.

The first problem is the relationship between Edward and Karina who's played by Courteney Cox. There's a real lack of chemistry between the two and certain scenes make it painfully obvious. Whether it's the material they've been handed or not, there's a scene where Edward...erm...shits his pants and make it "smell like a diaper" as Karina elegantly puts it. This just had to happen during a crucial and tense moment even. This moment wasn't just ruined; it was lead by a leash to a backyard and shot.

Another thing is that Ron Eldard is a bit wooden as the lead. He plays a character that is hard to sympathize with which is fine. That's done on purpose because gambling addiction is pretty serious and leads to people doing incredibly dumb things. Any kind of addiction can lead to that which makes his character interesting to watch but Eldard comes up short in his portrayal.

Courteney Cox does OK with her scenes but nothing more than that. One thing I have to say that I disliked was the appearance of David Arquette as a bartender. I'm not sure when in 1999 The Runner was released but I know that Cox and Arquette got married the same year. Whether the marriage was after or before, it's just capitalizing on their presence in popular media. It's harmless in the end so I guess that I fall somewhere between full on disliking and feeling "meh" about this whole thing. What's for sure is that it took me out of the movie.

The editing for The Runner tries to do too much and cover for some of the problems that it has. The worst of this is during a blackjack scene with Edward that ruins the impact of the moment. The combination of the editing and Eldard's acting makes for another ruined opportunity to create an emotional connection with Edward.

In terms of the good things for this film, I liked Goodman overall but who I wish I saw more of was Bokeem Woodbine. He played his character 477 with a cool purpose that was sorely lacking. Another thing that's funny to see compared to how we are in 2014 was the way in which Edward would check for score updates. What a bore it must be to call up a number and listen to an automated system that let you know all the scores of all the games going on until it got to yours. We can just use the internet or smartphones now but I bet that this new found convenience must be bad for fighting gambling addiction.

The Runner had a great idea but fails to deliver in many ways. It's by no means an awful movie, it is all the same semi-watchable. It's just a bad movie overall and doesn't deserve much more than a passing interest if you are looking to learn more about sports gambling or gambling addiction. Neither of these topics are really explored very well though. The potential to present an interesting story of a man with a gambling addiction trying to keep his head above water was an opportunity that has been squandered.

5/10