I've never done drugs in my life, but after watching Gamer I'm pretty sure I understand just what it feels like take a handful of peyote and be thrown into a drug-induced fever dream. Gamer is a spiritual successor to directors Neveldine and Taylor's Crank: yet another fast-paced and eye-popping adventure that doesn't so much toe the line of the unbelievable as much as fly past the line on a rocket-powered platypus. What you can expect is lots of 'splosions, guns, and some gratuitous nudity, so fans of all of that are in for a treat. And possibly a migraine.
Gamer's core concept is an interesting one: the ultimate video game where humans on the outside essentially “jack in” to other humans and control them in a semi-controlled environment. Sounds pretty rad, eh? The problem isn't the concept but the execution, which muddles a promising idea with elements that feel extraneous.
In the not so distant future, the most powerful man in the world is Ken Castle (Dexter's Michael C. Hall), the genius behind the technology that allows humans to play a game called "Society" -- essentially a real-life version of “The Sims.” Castle's other brainchild is "Slayers," in which players control convicts in gruesome battles to the death. One such convict is Kable (Gerard Butler), who, as per the rules of the game, is about to be released from prison, having survived almost 30 matches. Unfortunately for Kable, Castle can't have anyone beating his game, so he unleashes Hackman (Terry Crews) into the world uncontrolled and on a mission to destroy Kable before his impending release. An underground unit called the Humanz (led by Ludacris) finds Kable's player, Simon (Logan Lerman), and opens a connection between the two so they can help Kable escape, which hopefully will allow the Humanz to expose Castle's corruption.
At finishing this movie, I wished that someone had given me a heads up about the way it was put together, so here is my warning to you: Gamer's action scenes are really intense, really flashy, and so quickly cut you'll scarcely be able to comprehend what you're looking at before the next image is mercilessly forced on you. There's plenty of the usual blood, dirt, and explosions, but coupled with frequent flashes to white and glitched-out “video game connection issues,” Gamer is like trying to watch Saving Private Ryan from the comfort of a Tilt-A-Whirl. Be sure you're current on your seizure meds, and I don't recommend watching his film if you're pregnant.
Like I said before, there seems to be a whole load of extraneous story elements shoehorned into this film that keep it from efficiently finding its way from A to B. There's two plots being woven together, but the way the film is assembled you never really feel a focus on either Kable's search for his wife and daughter or the Humanz' quest to take down Ken Castle. Because of that lack of direction, the plot twists seem mostly anti-climactic, devoid of any and all shock value. Making up for that flatness, however, are the aforementioned seizure-inducing, fever-dream-esque action scenes.
The scenes within the world of “Society” are chock full of latex, ball gags, and every other form of bondage imagery your sick brain can come up with. At first the images are shocking, but they help nail down the idea that if you had someone else's body to use as you pleased, you might do some weird stuff, too. Maybe not as weird as some of the craziness you'll see in here, but you might get your freaky-deaky on a little bit. Mostly, however, the “Society” scenes will make you feel like you're at a rave, destroying your ear drums with thumping House music and chomping down ecstasy. While it adds stark contrast to the world of "Slayers," as well as the real world, the story isn't benefitted much and it serves only to increase the already over-the-top assault on your battered senses.
When I walked away from Gamers I felt like I had watched a newbie director's first movie out of film school. It has all the key tells of a young director trying to cram too much into a short amount of time. It's not a bad movie for what it is, but it is a step down from Crank, and that may be saying something for most of you. It's a rental if you've got nothing else to watch.
This relatively mediocre movie has a pretty deep documentary in the special features, running about an hour and a half long and touching on everything from stunts to editing. The doc is driven by interviews with pretty much everyone involved, but most prominently the directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. There's a lot to not like about this, movie especially if it's not your cup of tea to begin with, but hearing the two of them talk about it gives you a little bit more respect for what they've done, crafting an intense and solid-looking action film on a very small budget.
There's also an enjoyable commentary featuring the directors alongside cast members Alison Lohman, Amber Valletta, and Terry Crews. All in all, documentary makes the disc worth the rental. Instead of having to click on endless two- to seven-minute clips, they put together a nice piece for you to just sit back and enjoy.