Gamer

I would like my $8.50 and 95 minutes back. Despite its intriguing premise and provocative plot, Gamer fell short of expectations. The potential existed for a thought-provoking exploration of the darker side of human nature; instead I witnessed a hedonistic exercise in depravity.

Gamer
takes place in the not-so-distant future, in a world where consumers can take gaming to the next level. Are you familiar with The Sims, a game that allows you to manipulate characters’ lives and create your own society? Well, imagine if that were real. Imagine if you were playing a video game whose characters represented actual human beings. Sounds pretty cool, right? Not so much. Once the movie delved deeper into its premise it exposed an underbelly of humanity that I’d rather not see. Gerard Butler (300, The Ugly Truth) stars as Kable, a prisoner who is forced to compete in a real-life video game called “Slayers.” He is being controlled by a teen named Simon, a rich kid with every expensive toy imaginable at his fingertips. The object of Slayers is to shoot your way of each battle zone and to survive 30 such battles so that you can be released from prison. Obviously no one would do this shit willingly, but the prisoners don’t have much choice. They have been implanted with a microchip of some sort called a nanex, which ensures their compliance. The creator of Slayers, and another Sims-like game called “Society,” is a nefarious Bill Gates-type named Ken Castle, played by Michael Hall of Dexter. Castle is ridiculously rich, profiting from the public’s desire to manipulate real human lives. His game Society allows you to make real people have sex, fight, use drugs – you name it. You get paid for participating in the game as a character, and you have to pay to play. Kable has become a cult hero, a global superstar, because he is only three battles away from being the first character to survive Slayers. He has won 27 battles. Most prisoners don’t win more than 10. Simon, his player, has also gained a high level of notoriety. He is the one controlling Kable, after all. Things go awry when an organized human resistance rises up against Castle, who has larger designs on taking over the minds of regular human beings instead of just the prisoners in his game. Ludacris is the leader of the resistance, an organization called Humanz. Anyway, they hack into the Slayers game and allow Simon and Kable to communicate directly. They also tell Kable that Castle has a secret to keep and will never allow Kable to survive the game the old-fashioned way; he’ll have to escape. First he has to be released from Simon’s control. Kable persuades Simon to release him and begins his escape. Back in the real world he has a wife and daughter waiting for him. First he has to get past another prisoner inserted in the game to kill him. *sigh*

The details are non-sensical and the plot becomes more and more ridiculous. I know that most movies require suspension of belief, but Gamer became over the top. Now that I know it was written and directed by the duo that brought us Crank, I understand the high level of absurdity. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor obviously like the idea of people behaving wildly violently and sexually without consequences. They don’t portray it thoughtfully or intelligently, they prefer it gratuitous and pointless. Violence for violence’s sake. I personally don’t enjoy that, which is why Gamer was just not my type of movie. A movie like Kill Bill was certainly violent, but it was done smartly. There’s a right way and wrong way to do it. Quite simply, Gamer was all wrong. I wanted to press the re-set button on this game, and I couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough. Gerard Butler ably portrayed Kable, but I found the material to be questionable. Gamer was a disgusting movie that offered nothing of value. The material was ripe for social and psychological commentary, but Neveldine and Taylor obviously had no such designs.

This article first appeared at http://poptimal.com/2009/09/gamer/ and was reprinted with permission.

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