A nasty action masterpiece. One of the best movies of the year.
Gerard Butler- Kable
Michael C. Hall- Ken Castle
Amber Valletta- Angie
Kyra Sedgwick- Gina Parker Smith
Logan Lerman- Simon
Alison Lohman- Trace
Terry Crews- Hackman
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges- Humanz Brother
John Leguizamo- Freek
Keith David- Agent Keith
Maggie Lawson- Female News Host
James Roday- Male News Host
Lloyd Kaufman- Genericon
Zoe Bell- Sandra
Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Neveldine/Taylor)
Screenplay by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Neveldine/Taylor)
Distributed by Lionsgate
Rated R for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and language
Runtime: 95 minutes
“Gamer,” written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Neveldine/Taylor, as they are listed in the credits), is a bit of a change of pace for the men behind the awesome “Crank” franchise. Oh, sure, “Gamer” is chock full of bloody, gory action, abundant nudity, and hilariously crass humor, but underneath it all is a bit of social satire reminiscent of the original “Death Race 2000,” “The Running Man,” “Demolition Man,” “They Live,” and “Robocop.” For people interested in that kind of commentary within the confines of a big action movie, “Gamer” is going to be a welcome movie going experience. For everyone else, the slow moments are going to be an annoyance and a buzz kill.
“Gamer” stars Gerard Butler as Kable, the star of a reality show/real life video game/pseudo pay-per-view called “Slayers,” where players engage in combat via computer using actual people as avatars on the battlefield. The actual people in the game are all death row inmates and federal prison lifers who have been given a chance by game creator, the mega billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), to get out of prison if they survive thirty game sessions. No one has ever survived thirty sessions, but Kable, when the movie starts, only has three sessions to go. Controlled by the rich teenage punk douchebag and online gaming legend Simon (Logan Lerman), Kable is the biggest star in the history of the game. Will he survive the remaining three gaming sessions and get out of prison?
If only it were that simple. See, the “Slayers” game isn’t as simple as that, which is the way Castle wants it. He has no intention of allowing Kable to survive (if people ever found out what “Slayers” is really all about, they’d probably rebel against it. Probably. People in this world are generally stupid and there’s always a chance they could care less. But there’s nothing wrong with hedging your bets. That’s what good business men do) , which is why he’s putting a raving, potentially unstoppable psychopath into the game, Hackman (the great Terry Crews). Hackman will not be under the control of anyone or anything, which means he’ll have all of the latitude in the world within the game zone to attack Kable at will.
While all of that is going on, there’s another real life/reality show/video game going on, called “Society,” also created by Cable, which resembles “Sims.” People at home live fake, super sexy lives through real people. One of the avatars in “Society” is Angie (Amber Valletta), who just so happens to be Kable’s wife. She’s taken a job in the “Society” game (“Society” is, more or less, a game people can volunteer to be a part of, unlike “Slayers”) to help pay the bills until her husband gets out of prison (maybe) and get her daughter out of the foster care system. Angie is controlled by a gigantic fat guy in a wheelchair who spends his whole day in front of a bank of computer and television screens playing the game (and other games), eating, and masturbating. Her life is horrendous, but there’s potential light at the end of the tunnel for her. She could get her daughter back, and there’s a chance that her husband could get out of prison. There’s a chance that everything could somehow work out in the end.
And while all of that is going on, there’s an underground rebellion against Castle and his multi-media/government empire called Huamnz, run by Humanz Brother (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), that hopes to get the duped citizens of the world to wake up to what is really happening to them. Humanz is in secret contact with both Kable and Simon, figuring that if they can somehow get both Kable and Simon on their side that it will be easier to get the world off the Castle bandwagon. Will they succeed? Will the world see the real reality?
One of the flick’s best attributes is its lack of explanation of what the point of the “Slayers” game actually is. The players in the game have to find a way to get to the “next save point,” but beyond that it’s just people shooting at other people and stuff exploding. No one in the world seems to be bothered by the game’s pointlessness. They’re just happy to blow stuff up and see real head shots. Why isn’t anyone aspiring to something beyond that kind of violence? No one seems to have time to think about it, and, again, no one seems to care. And when it comes to the “Society” game, the only thing that bothers people is when the game starts to fritz out (or when it gets interrupted by Humanz). Now, there is an “independent media” at work here, in the guise of celebrity talk show host Gina Parker Smith (a hilariously potty mouthed Kyra Sedgwick), who asks Castle pointed questions about “Slayers” on the air while fawning over Castle when the cameras are off, but she isn’t very effective (and, really, the only thing she’s interested in is sensation for the sake of sensation and nothing else, so it’s not like she’s out doing the people’s business or helping educate democracy or anything). So this is a completely messed up world. And it does kind of sound like the one we currently live in, doesn’t it?
Of course it does.
What I also like about the flick is that, despite its generally negative view of the world and people, it’s kind of hopeful. Throughout the flick there’s a chance for human redemption and change, a chance that people will wake up from the sleep and haze caused by just far too much interactive media and regain their soul. But you don’t come to that conclusion until a few hours after watching it. So, in a sense, “Gamer” is really a “thinking person’s” action movie, as long as you’re willing to think about action movies. Again, like I said above, if you’re not into a heaping bowl of social commentary with your exploding heads and rampant, gauzy nudity, you’re going to be annoyed by the movie’s “preachiness.”
Now, the action bits are just outstanding. When the guns start shooting and the bombs explode, it’s full throttle nastiness and cinematic excitement, even when you have no idea what’s going on. The gore, blood, and general brutality are top notch (everything is amped up and ridiculous but skillfully done, which is always a plus). Neveldine and Taylor are easily two of the best modern action directors working today.
The cast is fabulous. Gerard Butler is perfect as Kable. He adds a sadness to his character that makes you sympathize with him even before you know his whole story. The man has been through horrendous and you just want to see him get out of it in one piece. Logan Lerman is just awesome as the rich boy douchebag prick Simon. You just want to punch him in the balls the second you see him (he’s got the world by the ass and he’s ungrateful about it, which is just disgusting). Michael C. Hall, as Castle, gives one of the best insane villain performances of the decade. Hall plays him as an arrogant yet charismatic piece of shit that everyone in the world would likely follow to the ends of the Earth. Even when it’s revealed what his real plans are it doesn’t seem all that outlandish. He could really pull it off if he wanted to. People follow and believe in this asshole. His best bit? His dance routine featuring a Sammy Davis, Jr. song. Great, great stuff (I’d nominate him for a Saturn award if I could).
Amber Valletta does a great job as Angie, Kable’s wife. You have to watch her expressionless face while in the “Society” game. It’s one of the saddest things you’re likely to see in a movie this year. The great Terry Crews, President Camacho hisself, seems to get the short shrift as Hackman. He isn’t given much of a back story beyond being a psychopath. But when you see him in action within the “Slayers” game you see why he doesn’t need one. The man is terrifying. And Chris “Ludacris” Bridges is perfect as Humanz Brother, the leader of the resistance. He just looks like the kind of guy that could and would put an underground movement together.
Kyra Sedgwick, star of the great TNT cop show “The Closer,” gives a great performance as Gina Parker Smith, the talk show host. She has a filthy mouth and she ends up being more important to the story than you’d think at first. But is she a good guy or a bad guy? Good question.
I also want to mention the presence of Alison Lohman, who starred in the great Sam Raimi flick of this past summer, “Drag Me to Hell.” She gives a great performance, like dang near everyone else, but is it just me or is she insanely cute in this movie?
Now, what about John Leguizamo, who you’ve no doubt seen in the flick’s trailers and TV commercials? What does he do in the movie? He really doesn’t have a major presence in the movie, but what he does is good stuff anyway. I will say that I wouldn’t be surprised if his character has a bunch of deleted scenes on the eventual DVD, funny speeches and whatnot. I mean, come on, he’s John Leguizamo. That’s what he does. And who the heck is that gigantic, sweaty, masturbating fat guy?
Eagle eyed movie and TV nerds should be on the look out for funny cameos by the immortal Keith David, James Roday and Maggie Lawson (of the great USA show “Psych”), the awesome Zoe Bell, and the incomparable Lloyd Kaufman, the president of Troma. This, I believe, is the second time Kauffman has appeared in a Neveldine/Taylor movie (the first one was “Crank: High Voltage,” which you can read my review of here). In one sense, it’s obvious why Kaufman and Neveldine/Taylor “work” together (you could say that the movies Neveldine/Taylor make are big budget Troma movies), but then again, what’s Uncle Lloyd’s deal here?
All in all, “Gamer” is fabulous time at the movies. It’s a great flick from start to finish. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cringe (in a good way), and it’ll make you think. It’s exciting, man. Go see this freaking movie.
So what do we have here? Gratuitous Marilyn Manson song, gratuitous Gerard Butler, a massive urban war zone, stock shots of international cityscapes, gratuitous machine guns and explosions and exploding body parts, grenades, piles of dead bodies, gratuitous Lloyd Kauffman, gratuitous Michael C. Hall, gratuitous Kyra Sedgwick, gratuitous exposition, gratuitous Ludacris, hand sniffing, a stark open air prison, gratuitous flashbacks, gratuitous John Leguizamo, a tattoo, jailhouse autographs, DNA stealing, a urinating dog, rampant nudity, hot lesbians, gratuitous disgusting fat guy eating and masturbating while playing a real life video game, gratuitous rebel signal interference, flaming flying car, leg amputation, flamethrower hooey, gratuitous snowplow hooey, exploding head, gratuitous Terry Crews, a great bit where a guy rips out the back of his own head, neck stretching with neck popping, exploding flaming motorcycle, flak jacket buying, vodka drinking, a great way to make gas, concrete floor pillar hooey, pick up truck hooey, snowplow attack, gratuitous Alison Lohman, gratuitous old school video games, air hockey, gratuitous naked night club, ass slapping with attempted anal rape, fluorescent human blood, gratuitous Keith fucking David, more flashbacks, gratuitous pseudo show tune dance routine, neck snapping, a big ass fight, a basketball court fistfight, one of the nastiest arm breaks in recent movie history, more neck snapping, attempted Kim Richards, knife to the gut, and a proper ending.
Best lines: “Turn me around,” “Stop menstruating and tell me if we fucking have it,” “You can pay to control or pay to be controlled,” “So, what’s your damage?,” “Seriously, these Huamnz, cocksuckers, they’re out of control,” “Can’t say I didn’t try,” “Who the fuck is playing us, man?,” “Do you want to see our tits, Simon?,” “All right, girls, back to your jazzercise,” “Hey, Kable, look. I just killed someone,” “These are real humans, fucker,” “Turn me loose, kid. You want to win? Turn me loose,” “I work in ‘Society.’ It’s a job,” “Do you like the software?,” “I do feel you my giant brother,” “What the fuck just happened?,” “Look at me, bitch! Anybody in there?,” “Pistachio butter? They make that?,” “What’s the gun for, John?,” “Excuse me, media whore,” “You’re awesome,” “Is this bad? I’m really bad,” “Oops,” and “Well played, Kable.”
The 411: “Gamer” is a great, bloody, nasty action flick and a great bit of social satire. One of the best movies of the year. Neveldine/Taylor have, once again, created a masterpiece. Hopefully they’ll get to make more in the future.
Final Score: 10.0 [ Virtually Perfect ] legend