Much Better Left Unplayed

Gamer **

The tiny semblance of what Gamer tries to pass off as a plot is taken from so many films it will give you déj√† vu, and not the good kind. Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Bryan Taylor, the duo responsible for both the Crank films, Gamer is not pure unadulterated entertainment. The film also comes with a dose of self-righteousness, which drags down the movie.

Gamer is set in the near future where simulation gaming has been taken to a new level, letting people control other people. In this alternate reality, death row inmates are placed under the full control of paying customers thanks to new cutting-edge technology. The game is called Slayers and is designed by a Bill Gates wannabe, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who has cataclysmic aspirations. The convicts are members of the reality game, forced to participate in severely violent battles. Those lucky enough to survive 30 battles are set free. One specific convict, our hero, Kable (played by Gerard Butler) has won 27 battles and is close to being the first to be set free.

Gamer is a powerhouse of brutality and sex from beginning to end and is definitely not for the faint of heart. That being said, it is also a lot of fun most of the time and can be considered more of an exploitation film rather than torture porn (such as the movie Hostel). Moviegoers looking forward to seeing gritty action scenes and body parts being shot off will not be disappointed. However, with all the blood and guts and scantily clad women that movie throws at the audience, Gamer also has the audacity to lecture about how sick it is to receive enjoyment from this. The seemingly hypocritical message raises questions about what the intention of the film was, given its content.

Butler gets the most screen time, but spends most of it sporting a grim demeanor. This may have worked with action stars in the 80s but it does not do much in the way of character development, and it certainly doesn’t help the audience sympathize with him. Hall succeeds at playing the creepy evil mastermind behind the game and Amber Valletta shows up as Angie, the love interest, but is mainly there for eye-candy. Alison Lohman and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges also have supporting roles but are wasted in a subplot about a resistance group called Humanz. There is also a mishmash of cameos by semi-recognizable television actors that add nothing to the story or the entertainment factor.

To be fair, this isn’t a horrible film, and is actually fun and entertaining for a good part of its runtime, which thankfully is only 95 minutes. It’s just those parts when it slows down to dwell on its tight-rope thin storyline that will get your eyes rolling.

It also needs to be said that it is a well directed film as well with some awe-aspiring set-pieces.

Unfortunately, the dull plot and uneven acting prevent Gamer from being a cult classic, or even a great late-summer popcorn flick.