Joy Shtick: ‘Gamer’ blends intellect with oblivion

September 6, 2009 | Gamer Reviews, Uncategorized

Gerard Butler stars as Kable in Lionsgate Films’ “Gamer.”

Watching Lionsgate Films’ new high-octane action flick “Gamer” sends a chill down the perceptive moviegoer’s spine. Every nook and cranny of this couch potato’s fantasy is packed with fine-tuned details. It makes one wonder why any sane person would put so much thought into something so mindless.

Then again, that is part of the charm of “Gamer,” which was written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Unlike similarly themed films “The Condemned” and “Death Race,” “Gamer” extends beyond the screen into a future reality that may not be so impossible – especially given audiences’ sadistic passion for interactive gaming at all costs. Sure, the flick portrays a sick and twisted world but that world creates opportunities for employment, a fully submersible Internet concept that most people would die for and an easy way to fund the prison system.

Gerard Butler portrays Kable in “Gamer.” Kable is a convicted felon – on death-row, no less – who has agreed to participate in a real-life shoot-em-up video game called “Slayers.” If he survives 30 sessions, he will have earned his own freedom and will be able to reunite with his wife Angie (Amber Valletta) and daughter. However, there is a catch – Kable is under the control of a young gamer named Simon (Logan Lermman).

The technology for the controversial form of entertainment comes courtesy of billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who also created “Society” – a Sims-style game that allows people to live out their wildest fantasies through other – real – people. Of course, Castle is not too pleased that Kable has already survived 27 sessions of “Slayers” so he places a new player into the game – Hackman (Terry Crews) – one without any strings.

But Castle’s reign as entertainment king is threatened when a group called the Humanz (led by someone played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) begins transmitting video messages on his network criticizing his treatment of living, breathing human beings. With the help of the Humanz and the cooperation of Simon, Kable makes one last-ditch effort to escape the game, regain his identity and save mankind from a virtual Hell.

“Gamer” is at its best when it features “Society” – a decidedly colorful universe to offset the drab darkness of “Slayers.” Although, cinematic glee does occur when the two worlds collide. Now, if Neveldine and Taylor wanted to make a great movie, they would have made one all about “Society.” Oh, wait, they made two… titled “Crank.”
And while Neveldine and Taylor inject the same crazy energy from the “Crank” movies into “Gamer,” the result is just not as special. It never feels quite as fun as those films and thus fails to fully captivate its audience. The “Slayers” scenes are simply too mind-numbing and chaotic to translate into entertainment. Gamers themselves may wet their pants with excitement over them but everyone else – including action flick fans – will probably get a slight headache.
On the other hand, “Gamer” is filled with other scenes that feel more inventive and creative than most other movies released this year. The futuristic concepts explored throughout the motion picture are truly astounding. Each and every idea is defined with great detail. It is certainly a far cry from “Minority Report” but it does surprisingly well for such an otherwise mediocre movie.

Butler is a fantastic action star, delivering a powerful performance in “Gamer.” The supporting cast – including Kyra Sedgwick, Milo Ventimiglia, John Leguizamo and Alison Lohman who have very small roles in the film – does a nice job here, too. But “Gamer” is not exactly an actor’s movie. It is all about the visuals and nonstop action. And, on that level, everything seems to work perfectly. The film offers up a feast for the eyes from start to finish.

Ultimately, that is all that matters. “Gamer” is not a very important movie nor does it succeed at nothing-but-entertainment like the filmmakers’ other efforts, but it blends both cinematic types to make a worthwhile piece of film. And until the day comes when moviegoers can control the actors actions on the screen, this is good enoug

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