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"Gamer"

Directed by Neveldine/Taylor.
Written by Neveldine/Taylor.
Starring Gerard Butler, Logan Lerman, Amber Valletta and Michael C. Hall.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  9/6/09

Folks--

If you like Gerard Butler, understand online gaming, and can put up with truly extremist filmmaking, "Gamer" is a ton of fun.  Note--if you are NOT a fan of these things, I'd have a hard time believing you will enjoy this film experience.

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writer-directors of the "Crank" films, made "Gamer."  That's very important to know BEFORE you arrive at the theater to see "Gamer" because just like the "Crank" films, "Gamer" is speed, uppers, "Cloverfield" and adrenaline rolled in an explosive casing and then jammed into C4 and thrown into an F1 racer.

Then it gets shot out of a railgun.

In fact, I'd say the only major negative for me in this "Death Race"/"The Running Man" clone is the camerawork...I'm glad I saw "Gamer" before, say, getting on a boat or an airplane.  It'll make you dizzy...but, if you can get past that, and you are a fan of the things I mentioned above, "Gamer" is a great ending to pure candy summer entertainment.

Gerard Butler plays Kable, a man trapped in a live-action gaming experience known in the near future as "Slayers"; like online games of the present, users sitting at home can join "Slayers" to control inmates of the US federal prison system in real-life gun battles where the winners receive cash and prizes.  Kable, on the inside, can get out of prison by surviving an incredible 30 straight matches in "Slayers"...when we meet him, he is just finishing up win #27.  With three matches to go, Kable has a chance to get out...unless the show's evil producer & creator, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, from "Dexter"), can find a way to stop him.  To add just enough backstory to keep the non-action scenes moving, Kable has a family outside of prison, including a wife (Amber Valletta) who is involved in a similar user-controlled real life experience called "Society", a clear rip on worlds like "The Sims" or "Second Life."  How can the two reunite?

Even with the "Crank" films, you could tell that Neveldine & Taylor are big fans of gaming; here in "Gamer", there are subtle references to things that any gamer will recognize and they are matched with some decent action scenes featuring Butler running around on "maps" in the movie's game world.  Gratuitous violence, ridiculously high body counts, random moments like computer-generated "non-playable characters" that happen to walk through bullet-riddled environments like they are going to work, save points, "ping" delays and the like will all make gaming fans happy.  The real caveat, though, are the "Society" scenes--it's possible that people who have never seen someone play "Second Life" will think that those scenes are stupid or unrealistic or extreme...no, my friend, quite the contrary!  That's what makes the "Society" scenes so great is that they are meant to mimic how crazy it is that someone would sit at home and live out their fantasies through online avatars that like to ride bikes, bang hookers or eat sushi.  It's really that random, and the movie's poking of this phenomenon worked for me.

As extremes go, it was nice to see that the characters are all playing stereotypes at one end of the spectrum.  Hall's bad guy is not that interesting, but he appears to be playing it like he gives a damn.  The blank, bland Valletta (no offense, Amber) is perfect as the hot-but-soulless wife; you can never really imagine Kable and his wife do together but thankfully, there are almost no scenes where we have to find that out.  Kyra Sedgwick shows up to play a popular TV interviewer, and between her part and the always-comic Terry Crews as Kable's second-half nemesis, everyone seems to have embraced the "take it to the next level" acting that Neveldine/Taylor films require.

It's got a shitty ending and Ludacris, once again, makes me wonder why so many directors want him in their movies...otherwise, this was a surprisingly good time at the movies.

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 09/06/09