“Gamer” is a modern gladiator story with a hero who refuses to die while at the same time his purpose is to entertain the masses. Unfortunately, the age old story becomes forgotten in the mess of overwhelming action scenes, too many sound effects and MTV-styled editing that ultimately brings the movie down.
The writing/directing team behind the film is Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (“Crank,” 2006 and 2009), who are famous for their action-packed and fast-paced films. However, in “Gamer” it seems as if they had a strong ground to make a good film but instead they got lost in their virtual world and forgot about the interesting message in the movie: how much will humans be consumed by technology in the future?
The movie takes place in the near future where humans can control what other humans do or say through a mind-controlling multiplayer online game. The billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”) has created the popular game “Slayers,” a game where inmates on death row risk their lives participating in a real-life “Counter Strike” game.
All the inmates have a computer chip inserted in their brains and are controlled by a player from the outside. If the players on the outside, who have coughed up a lot of money to be a part of the game, manage to keep their real-life soldiers alive for 30 games, they will achieve worldwide superstar status and their player inside the virtual battle field will be released from prison and win complete freedom.
The protagonist, Kable, played by Gerard Butler (“300,” 2007) is controlled by the spoiled teenager Simon. Team Kable/Simon only have four more games to win before they become the first team to win all games necessary. However, the last games will unravel secrets and surprises from all directions possible and the film will take an unexpected turn.
Kable, a man convicted for murder, is not only fighting to survive, but also to rescue his wife and daughter on the outside before Castle “pays them a visit” as promised.
Butler feels very believable in the role but at the same time a bit to monotone in his facial expression and quickly falls in to the endless category of “I got this role because I have muscles” action actors.
The entire movie is displayed to the audience in dark grey-green colors except when the focus is on Castle’s first popular game “Society.”
“Society” is a place where people can control and live out their fantasies or horrors through other people, including Kable’s wife, played by Amber Valletta (“Hitch,” 2005). The “Society” scenes are too cliché with its 90s rave feeling of S&M styled leather, colorful wigs and chunky platform boots.
The acting is effective overall, with the exception being Kyra Sedgewick, (“The Closer” ) who plays a famous TV-personality (a role that would not have been missed if taken out of the movie). Michael C. Hall, almost saves the movie from complete disaster with a very good interpretation of a psychotic genius. Maybe it is because he has had a lot of practice while playing a psychopath in the TV series “Dexter.”
Although the version with online games is new to the screen, the idea has been used before. Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000) or last year’s “Death Race” anyone?
The graphics in “Gamer” are great. The war zone and the fighting scenes are powerful, brutal and really beautiful. It is just not enough to make up for all the bad things about the film.
If familiar with games similar to the ones in the movie such as “Counter Strike” and/or “The Sims,” the movie might be worth watching. If not, then no.
“Gamer” gets 2 out of 5 stars.