Action Movie Fanatix Review: Gamer

Gamer banner

Who’s Playing You?

Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Kyra Sedgwick, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews, Ludacris, Keith Jardine

Director: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

2009  |  95 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Turn me loose, kid.  You want to win?  Turn me loose!” – Kable

Gamer is a movie that I have heard mostly bad things about.  And for that reason I have avoided it like the plague.  Mind you, I haven’t heard folks saying it’s the worst movie ever made or anything preposterous like that but I’m not somebody who goes out of his way to purposely see movies I have heard nothing but bad things about.  After buying the DVD for God knows what reason, I figured it was about time I finally watch this thing and decide whether it belongs in my collection or if it belongs in the trash.

In the future, the world’s population is obsessed with two video games run by the maniacal Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall).  The first game, Society, allows players to control other human beings, using them to do whatever their perverted minds can come up with.  The second game, Slayers, allows players to control death row inmates in war scenarios, fighting to gain their freedom.  After having been set up, Kable (Gerard Butler) is the star of Slayers and is on the verge of finally gaining his freedom.

Gamer felt like there was some sort of attempt at social commentary or inner message involving gaming, reality TV and the criminal justice system.  But, the message was underdeveloped so it never comes across as anything more than a futuristic craziness.

The scenes featuring the Society game all felt gratuitous, not tacked on but just gratuitous.  It seemed obvious that this was a parody of Second Life or The Sims.  And having recently watched the documentary Life 2.0, this sort of dystopian future isn’t completely unbelievable.  The problem, though, is that Gamer doesn’t completely show this Society game as a disgusting, abhorrent thing.  We are repeatedly shown the fat waffle eating slob that is controlling Kable’s wife but I just get this sense that Neveldine and Taylor enjoyed showing this to us.  There is an ever so slight sense of glorification that bothers me at a very deep level.  But, luckily, 99.9% of viewers will be disgusted by the thought of using another human being in this way or, worse yet, being paid to be used by a human being in this way, that the message is still mostly intact.

Sorry for getting all preachy there for a minute.  I’m back now.

The battles within the Slayers game are pretty cool looking but they are a blatant Call of Duty commercial rip off.  The only differences between these firefights and the ones in the Call of Duty commercials are that the commercials usually have some humor and random celebrities thrown in.  These are just shaky cam shoot outs.

Gamer showcases Neveldine & Taylor’s usual frantic directing style with way too many fast cuts and every kind of shaky cam imaginable, in fact, there is a tattoo on Kable’s arm with a seemingly important phrase on it but it is rendered completely illegible until the very end of the movie.  It was just never completely in frame until that final scene.  Incredible.

And don’t get me started on the dance number…

Gerard Butler is easy to believe as a badass military video game character.  It’s too bad he seems hell bent on putting out crappy rom-coms in between his awesome action movies.  He could be a real Action Hero if he fully committed.

At the end of the day, Gamer was a lot better than I expected.  It could have been great but Neveldine and Taylor got in the way.  It ends up being a movie that I was glad I saw but don’t have any desire to ever see again.  So, to answer my above quandary, Gamer will not remain in my collection.

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