Wednesday, December 2, 2009



There was a point in my viewing of GAMER when the film had become so completely badass that I thought, “it doesn’t get any better.” I said, “this is badass” aloud to myself. I wanted to reach for my phone, call a couple of choice heads, and tell them that the critics had been wrong. But almost immediately after that high point, the movie devolved into some sort of strange hyper-violent musical that should be destroyed and thrown out with the night’s trash. I went into this film hoping to find something worthwhile. It has some good stuff in it, but GAMER is drenched in such an elementary school bully level of stupidity that it pissed me off. This is the kind of film you leave in an abandoned lot tied to a stake to die alone, hungry, and hated.

There are many unoriginal angles to GAMER. Subtly, the theme music of the film is Marilyn Manson’s hopelessly inferior version of the Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams.” The notion presented in GAMER of being in a parallel, man-made, techno-savvy dimension isn’t new either. TRON was the original mainstream film that slapped that Lebowski dude into a video game. GAMER is basically the fantastically superior Paul W.S. Anderson’s DEATHRACE flipped, gutted, and served on the MATRIX tip. As a matter of fact, the mechanical heart of DEATHRACE has been callously torn out and installed into GAMER in such a blatant FRANKENSTEIN fashion that I feel the urge to “go villager” on this monstrosity and burn it to the ground.

GAMER is a film brought to us by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. These are the same irreverent upstarts that are responsible for CRANK 1 and 2. Their hyper-kinetic camera work totally fits for this film. Mayhem, fire-fights, and slo-mo, 180 degree, flipping SUV shots flow onscreen perfectly. What separates GAMER from the CRANK series is the former’s complete lack of humor. CRANK is grim, but a blackened vein of humor runs through it. GAMER has no humor buoying its cynical world-view. This movie is out to hurt you, and not in a cool way.

Set in the impossible near-future, GAMER stars Gerard Butler as Kable, a death row inmate who now fights for his freedom as a video game character on a real battlefield. A series of brain operations have made him (and the rest of his teammates) controllable via some nano-tech wireless Internet hookup. Murder and mayhem ensues as real death row inmates on two separate teams open fire on each other and try to survive in a sequestered industrial wasteland. The much more original and better DEATHRACE requires inmates to survive five races. GAMER ups the ante, and inmates are required to survive 30 rounds of in-game intensity. How did Kable find himself on Death Row? Well, in a “startling” similarity to DEATHRACE, he was framed by the powers that be.

Kable is motivated to get out of prison by his desire to be with his wife and daughter. This is where DEATHRACE and GAMER part ways slightly. In DEATHRACE Jason Staham’s Jenson Ames lost his wife and only has his daughter to fight for. Exploiting this difference between the two films, an abusive, slutty, gender-swapping subplot has been cooked up for Kable’s wife Angie (Amber Valleta). Angie works by being controlled in a highly-sexualized, SIMS-type of game by a morbidly obese pervert. Her employment hinders her custody of her daughter a-la BOOGIE NIGHTS.

The guy behind it all is an evil, southern wunderkind named Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). Castle has also invested in a little nano-tech wireless Internet for his own brain. As the story unfolds, we find that Castle has the power to physically control people who have had his brain-altering operation. This is how the film is able to limp to its finish line.

In the process of this limping, we get to see a mentally imbalanced, pathetic John Leguizamo do his final sell-out role as a throw-away character named Freek. “Incidentally,” the character of Freek mirrors the character named Lists (Fredrick Koehler) from DEATHRACE.

Other bit part players include Ludacris playing Humanz Brother, an unrealized, stereotypical “lets watch this rapper act” role that should have been carried by someone much more Oscar-caliber like Ice-T. Uma Thurman’s stunt-double Zoe Bell plays Sandra, a cornrowed navigator of sorts who takes the dopest headshot ever committed to film. Mix all of these characters together, add bullets, explosions, and a lot of bouncing booty, and you have GAMER, an apocalyptic fallout zone of a film that expects the viewer to accept beyond ridiculous concepts.

There is only one good thing about GAMER’s focused attack on your intelligence. This good thing is obviously why Gerard Butler agreed to meat puppet his way through such an abysmal attempt at entertainment. In order to escape from prison, Kable secures a pint of vodka and chugs it like a champ. He stumbles onto the battlefield, drunk and sloppy. The badass maneuver he pulls is to vomit up the vodka into an abandoned truck’s gas tank and then piss in there to top it off. Using this vulgar concoction he is able to fire up this truck that looks like a weak extra from DEATHRACE and blast out of the gaming battlefield, back into civilian life.

There are a couple of twists that materialize (such as Castle becoming the caretaker of Kable and Angie’s daughter) but they aren’t worth much. Any energy you expend on this film, whether it is a keyboard click to rent it on NETFLIX or stumbling into a BLOCKBUSTER or hustling REDBOX would be tragic. Humanity has been discounted in mainstream film in the past, but GAMER’s nihilistic view kicks the bottom out. The underlying message is bleak, bleak, bleak. GAMER is a glossy, offensive waste of your time.

Gamer will be on video January 19th 2010.

-Mediasaurus Rex