In spite of public demand, Justin Timberlake won’t stop until he makes it as an actor. Variety reports that he’s just signed up for Runner, Runner, a gambling drama courtesy of the screenwriting duo that penned Rounders, that secret late-90’s classic. He’ll join Ben Affleck on the project, which will be helmed by The Lincoln Lawyer director Brad Furman. Runner, Runner, as the Guardian notes, “examines the offshore online gaming community, and centres on an increasingly tense relationship between a business founder and his protege.” As a “runner” in gambling terms is the guy who carries the money and betting slips around gambling headquarters, maybe that’s how Timberlake will get his start in the scene.
Regardless of the character type, Affleck should be perfectly cast. He can go half-shaven, slightly skeezy “entrepreneur”-but-really-probably-just-a-con-man, or slicked up professional ready to do some business. But it’s both intriguing and a little frustrating to watch Timberlake further commit to acting roles that seem unlikely to make us forget that he’s still Justin Timberlake on the big screen, rather than the character he’s attempting to play. Actors like Christopher Walken and Samuel L. Jackson had to wait for decades before they could be recognized for playing themselves — Timberlake has reached that plateau in just a few years.
It’s his prerogative to do whatever he wants, even if a million In Time-s couldn’t make up for one “My Love.” But if Timberlake wants to be taken seriously, he needs to move past cool guy roles that riff on his essential Timberlake-ness — the suave, immaculately coiffed good-looking cool guy archetype he played to a tee in The Social Network and Friends With Benefits, simple extensions of the person we’d imagine him to be in real life. Which maybe isn’t a fair reading, because he is a human being and not an action figure with conferred personality traits, but it’s awful hard to separate celebrity from the artist given that his acting hasn’t really justified the career change. It doesn’t mean he should turn tail and latch onto the next Taxi Driver-type role out there, but where is he trying to go with this?