This movie is something that you would usually see on cable TV in some sleazy motel. Or maybe one sleepless night when you’re flipping through channels and looking for something to take your mind of things. The Runner has this authentic vibe to it, perhaps because of powerful performances by its mighty cast. Starring Ron Eldard also known as Shep from the nineties hit television show ER, it boasts a line-up with a lot of familiar names. John Goodman, Joe Mantegna, and Bokeem Woodbine gave the much-needed street-cred to the movie. And we also have to opportunity to see beautiful Courteney Cox in a role with much more depth than her performances in Friends or Scream.
Since it revolves around a guy who has an uncontrollable gambling problem, it’s also a great character study. And although he’s our main focus we have a lot of other interesting characters who are all living and working in this criminal underworld. And this world is represented as it should be, bleak and uncompromising. But also with a lot of high stakes and intense moments. This is the backdrop for our main character and you can’t help but root for him to get out of this very threatening situation. I don’t know if you ever gambled, but I can tell first hand that it’s pretty addictive and you can easily find yourself losing a lot of money.
Meet Edward, an ordinary guy living in Las Vegas who just bet every cent he has on a football game. And lost. Broke and in a lot of trouble, he gets help from his uncle who hooks him up with Deepthroat, a professional gambler who needs someone to place his bets. Ed, shortly after that meets Karina, a beautiful waitress and immediately falls in love with her. It would seem that he’s on the right way, but he kept the beast too hungry for too long. Now he has to feed it.
With good production values for a movie of this caliber and slick cinematography, The Runner is an eye-candy. And I’m not just talking about our homeboy Ron sucking on Courteney Cox’s toes. Great pacing that picks up speed just at the right times, creates this somewhat intense atmosphere that will make you watch it ’till the end. This is not a masterpiece or an Oscar contender, but a simple thriller about a man who has a gambling problem and who’s trying to keep it together.
Set in the perfect place, Las Vegas, it will make you remember your gambling adventures or just the very fact that you were among this crowd. Plus, the city is so iconic and easy to shoot in, that your movie immediately gets this expensive and luxurious vibe. However, as I already mentioned, this is a character study wrapped in a crime thriller. Just the thing you need at half-past four on a Wednesday night.
And if you’re into movies about gambling I recommend you check out the classics: Rounders, Casino and The Cincinnati Kid. Perhaps the most similar movie to this one would be Phoenix from 1998 starring Ray Liotta as the police detective in a lot of trouble. Sydney or Hard Eight is more a comedy but still a great movie with a similar vibe. In the end you might also want to check out super-cute The Cooler from 2003 with infinitely adorable William H. Macy as the guy whose only goal is the jinx the other players.
Director: Ron Moler
Cast: Ron Eldard, Courteney Cox, John Goodman, Joe Mantegna, Bokeem Woodbine, Terrence Evans
Fun Stuff: The writer of this movie Dustin Abraham after this movie wrote How High (also an excellent flick, but with a much different subject).