September 4, 2009
Review - " Gamer " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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leaden. The primary premise of "Gamer" isn't particularly original. Death row inmates fight to the death for the amusement
of the TV audience. (the afore mentioned Death Race, 2007 - The Condemned). Where "Gamer" takes off in a new
direction is the seemingly natural evolution of online gaming where the computer geeks actually control real people in first
person combat games similar to the popular 'Doom' (the video game not the gawd-awful movie).
Set in a future-world where humans can control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online gaming environments. The
control your own person craze all started with the online 'game' Society - a cross between 'The Sims' and 'Second Life'. And
soon evolved into the hottest thing of the near future - "Slayers," an interactive game in which, from the comfort of their own
homes, real people electronically control battles between real convicted felons, as if they were video game characters.
Kable (Gerard Butler), the most popular contestant who's only a few victories from winning his freedom, just wants to return
to his daughter and wife - who's now an actress in "Society" which is like a live-action version of "The Sims" that allows
players to control real people. Among these so-called Slayers, there's no bigger star, sensationally watched by millions
around the globe, than Kable, who is in turn controlled by a 17-year-old brainiac named Simon (Logan Lerman).
Of course what Kable, a remarkably sensitive
sort as far as convicts go, really wants is to be
reunited with his wife and child - a desire that
pits himself squarely against the game's
designer Ken Castle (Dexter's Michael C. Hall
in easily the film's most engaging performance)
, an enigmatic billionaire with the brain of Bill
Gates, the hucksterism of Richard Dawson
and the humanitarian streak of Bernie Madoff.
He’s got three more games before earning his
freedom, but the game's masters have no
intention of letting him out alive. Enter
Hackman (Crews), a bloodthirsty maniac who
promises that, in his version of the game, it’s
just Hackman vs. Kable for online glory.
Then again, Kable's tough-as-nails
determination to return home to his wife
makes a little more sense when we see her:
Amber Valletta, who spends a good portion of
the movie bending over in a teeny pair of electric blue shorts that would make Megan Fox blush.
The slimy, arrogant Ken Castle (Hall) created both games, and the only people who seem to be protesting the inevitable
loss of free will are Ludacris and his Humanz who, in the fine tradition of Ice-T in Johnny Mneumonic, hacks into TV
broadcasts to warn the populace.
It’s fairly pointless to talk about acting chops when half the cast are emotionless puppets. We do get some great moments
with Hall, who presents us with a bad guy we TRULY would like to see hit by a bus. He’s rich, cocky, super smart, in shape
and 100% evil. You’d just like to drop a train on him. Butler isn't given much emotional content, and when he is, they don’t
spend a lot of time on lingering pans across his troubled brow so we’ll give him a pass. Watching him run through this film
and shower the set in red stuff is more entertaining than you might imagine and, I’ll wager, more than enough to get the
ladies in those seats on opening day. I've also got to give honorable mention to Terry Crews, who takes a typical, over-the-
top psychotic and turns him into an extremely likable baddie you’ll wish was given more screen time!
Neveldine and Taylor are equally subtle with their social commentary. There are digs at U.S. health care and the prison
system, as well as the field of online gaming in which disconnected people interact via digital drones. How far will society
eventually go for vicarious thrills? How detached from violence will humanity someday become as technology isolates us
from real-life consequences?
Apparently these are among the questions we're meant to ponder when not gawking at the numerous naked breasts on
display or Valletta's remarkable, um, shorts.
"Gamer" grabs you by the back of the head and runs you through a minefield with internal organs flying at you around
every corner. Talk about a missed opportunity for 3D!!
Too much of "Gamer" is pre-programmed (can you believe that there's a resistance to all this mayhem, and that Kable isn't
actually a psychotic murderer?), and eventually all the gunfire and explosions blur together. Real life and technology also
are often blurred, though, and this sci-fi dystopia actually engages the emotional detachment that comes with saying and
doing whatever you want from the other side of the screen. At what point would we resist an opportunity to indulge our
desires in a supposedly guilt-free setting? Kudos to "Gamer" for managing to be both action-packed and somewhat thought-
Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Logan
Lerman, Terry Crews, Kyra Sedgwick, Alison Lohman, Chris
``Ludacris'' Bridges, John Leguizamo, Zoe Bell, Aaron Yoo, Milo
With their first two features, “Crank” and “Crank: High Voltage,” the
directing team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor succeeded in
creating a kinetic brand of all-sensation-all-the-time filmmaking.
Michael Bay may get the money and the occasional grudging critical
respect for his 3-hour farragoes, but Neveldine/Taylor make
hyperactive cinematic freakouts that are both fun to watch and, on
their own terms at least, logically cohesive.
That’s not so much the case with “Gamer,” however; where the
“Crank” movies stripped everything down to the basic “Jason
Statham IS the bus from ‘Speed’” premise, this latest one piles on
more and more plot in a tale of a near-future where everyone is
obsessed with playing videogames morning, noon and night. Given
how much the two “Crank” films borrowed from the first-person
shooter aesthetic, it feels a little too on-the-nose for these filmmakers
to straightforwardly exploit and comment upon videogame culture
Last year Statham starred in his own grungy futuristic inmates-as-
gladiators thriller in Death Race, a retread I guiltily enjoyed because
for all its raucous stupidity and repellent violence, it had the self-
awareness of disposable fun. "Gamer", by comparison, is bleak and
With its social commentary about a corrupt
corporation, the low value it places on human
life, and society’s increasing dependence on
social networking, Gamer will come across as
deep thinking to those who don’t think very
deeply. Still there's a healthy helping of gore,
gunfire and gratuitous breast shots to see you
through. I predict "Gamer" to open strong
(#1 for the weekend) but quickly peter out as it
just isn't all that good.
Oh - and you won't have to walk out.