What if the video games people play were real? What if the reality TV craze goes to the next level and we watch people die instead of sleep around? What if society becomes so connected and intertwined that we lose all semblance of what it is to be human? And what if two guys slapped all of the above in a movie, threw in a ton of sex and violence, and delivered what may be one of the more entertaining action flicks of the summer? Welcome to Gamer, the latest big action movie from Neveldine / Taylor that will blow you away in terms of visual style, non-stop action, and an interesting (but not too complex) story of where we could be going.
In the near future, the most popular show on the planet is “Slayers,” where criminals are played by the highest bidder in a shoot ’em up Game where the guns, explosives, and bloody deaths are real. If the player / criminal can survive through 30 games, they’re set free with a full pardon from the government. Kable (Gerard Butler) is about to survive his 30th Game until he gets word from the outside that Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), the billionaire creator of the Game, has no intentions of letting him survive. With help from a team of mercenaries led by Ludacris, Kable breaks free of the game to be with his wife and daughter whose lives are controlled by Castle’s influence. Kable must fight to stop the technological take-over and free his family.
In a way, Gamer is a solid mix of The Running Man (more so the book by Stephen King than the movie) , Gladiator, and even Death Race, with a solid dose of amped-up adrenaline that never lets up, not even for a minute, until the very end. While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man fell short of its potential, Neveldine / Taylor and Butler reach new heights in terms of visuals and stylized action, multi-dimensional characters, and a nightmarish look at the future that doesn’t feel too far off.
Neveldine / Taylor create a number of set pieces that differ in their visual style and overall feel. The Game itself is a world rich in shades of grey, like the middle of a war zone. In contrast, the prison scenes are blinding in its extreme whites and dark blacks. The other reality game in the movie is called “Society”, a live-action SIM CITY-like game is the complete opposite of “Slayers” in terms of both its visual palate, bright and vibrant colors like you’re in the middle of a Fanta commercial, and game-play like an ecstasy-filled playground for adults. And the real world? It’s as normal, bland, and “real” as Neveldine / Taylor can make it.
The idea that video games from SIM CITY and CALL OF DUTY, the internet, and reality TV are taking control of our lives at a fast and furious pace is disturbing and explored in Gamer. Just how far connected to technology can society get before we turn into drones and not human at all? Throw in the aspect of nanotechnology, and you have a cinematic statement against our growing dependence on technology. But don’t take it too seriously. After all this is an extreme action movie, filled with enough gun fights, fist fights, car chases, explosions, murder, mayhem, blood-splatter, and sex-fueled eye candy to entertain every action fan in existence.
Gerald Butler is quickly becoming the action hero of today’s generation, captivating audiences in 2006 with 300, and holding strong in Gamer, delivering a performance of sheer masculine brutality and testosterone, with dash of just the right amount of emotion to bring more than one dimension to the table. Michael C. Hall shows us he’s more than just Dexter, his portrayal as the evil corporate mega-giant is both likable and despicable, the perfect kind of villain for a flick like this.
Neveldine / Taylor showed us what they can do in terms of delivering an entertaining and adrenaline-fueled action movie with Crank and Crank 2. Gamer fits the bill of what you’d expect from these two, but it’s a more mature effort in terms of story, performances, and action-sequences. The nightmarish view of the future and our over-dependence on technology is engrossing, and the action violence that starts the film off with a bang never lets go (not even for a moment) until the very end. Gamer is thrilling, exciting, and most importantly, it’s entertaining and the perfect example of movie-going escapism. While there were a few moments that didn’t pass the logic test, and a few characters didn’t have proper closure, Gamer hit all the marks of what a movie like this is supposed to provide: pure unadulterated entertainment. If you’re looking for a good time, give Gamer some love. You won’t be disappointed.