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I Say "Game Over!"

Movie Title: Gamer (2009)
Spoilers: No

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It is the near-future. The place is…everywhere in the U.S.A. Society has gone the way of ancient Rome with a coliseum game-like obsession for seeing society’s outcasts fight to the bitter end in gun battles as they are controlled in a true-to-life video game. The players have complete control of the convicts. If a convict survives the bullet-flying battles with the hellishly bad odds against them, they go free (never happens). If not, they die, and the world is the better for it. This is not a simulation!

The drive for virtual reality was how it started, and then even that got old. Why virtual reality when you can have reality reality, which is better than that plain old "reality"? Why not pay off the debt that the incarcerated put on our nation’s economy by giving those who will pay for it the opportunity to take ready-to-die prisoners and let them fight it out in teams with house-leveling explosives?

Makes sense, I guess…in an Ivan The Terrible sort of way. And there doesn’t seem to be that many voices speaking out against it in this world. It also doesn’t seem to be any different from the plot of The Running Man (1987) and other films where gamers go too far in the name of entertainment. But really, the idea is just not as cool as it sounds at first.

The federal government likes these games, which are technologically made possible by Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, aka “Dexter”), a wicked mega-genius of nanotechnology who surpassed Bill Gates in richness almost overnight. But the games are not just for convicts, like Kable (Gerard Butler), that beefy Rambo replacement and star of the show you‘ve seen strutting his stuff on the big screen lately.

Nope, anyone can have decisions made for them in this not-so-virtual world. Just agree to have the nanite probes implanted into your head, and within the parameters of the game/life, you are being completely controlled and your interactions broadcasted to the paying gamer who is – quite literally – “using” you. Sound like the plot of some bizarre, cult classic Sci-fi thriller? It is. Only, it’s much worse than you imagine.

Described thus far is the world from the movie Gamer, which opens up with a gunfight and runs (while stumbling moronically) to get to many more. Sequences of bloodshed and unapologetic, head-bursting violence could – if it were possible – make Rambo have self-esteem issues. Rambo is cool, but Kable may have him! Kable is so cool that his piss fuels automobiles (yes, really)! But Kable has been on death row for four years on charges of murder. Kable has done something…something bad…and higher-ups have had their hands in it. More bad is headed his way if he can’t get out of the suicidal games he is forced to be a part of, the games that he – no thanks to his toughness, ballsiness, or skill – is a champion of. He’s been lucky so far.

But none of what I have explained up to now matters that much. Let’s pretend that directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor care about the moral messages of their film. Have video games gone too far? Will they? Does seeing characters get graphically blown to bits in a virtual reality desensitize us and put us one step closer to murdering or wronging our fellow man? And may I be so bold as to ask: Does seeing Roadrunner drop a safe on Wiley Coyote make us want to copy their behavior?

Don’t be fooled for a second, friends. The directors care not to answer those questions. Like the Crank series before this one, we have yet another “F*ck you, world!” movie from two decently talented filmmakers. But this feature isn’t what the Crank series was.

Forget any attempts at being thoughtful or provocative or unique. It’s not any of those. The action sequences can be wretchedly hard to follow. Scene after scene is badly shot, and on not a few occasions, confusing as all hell, giving the mind of the viewer a hard time meshing with what just flashed before your eyes the second before. The dialog never rises higher than: “Why don’t you shut the f*ck up!”

The bad lighting, the torturous verbal and non-verbal exchanges, the senseless combat and killing…it’s enough to give anyone over 25 a terrible migraine—worse than the one you got watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And I haven’t yet said a thing about the cutaways to a bi-curious, naked, morbidly obese cyber-junky who gropes himself while using the bodies and speech of hot women to seduce men into anally popping them in the seat for his twisted satisfaction. Don’t think about it. Just accept that it is more disturbing than you care to see (and I’m not sure I’ve been more serious about anything in my life!)

The only thing I can take out of Neveldine and Taylor’s work is the hit that it gives to my nation, a nation of fat, lazy, repugnant, cyber-pervish ork-like creatures who are evolving day-by-day into a more disgusting, caffeine-consuming breed than you ever thought possible.

Thin-plotted as an infant’s crown, Gamer is repulsive and poorly written, and despite some accomplished presences, doesn‘t get redeemed. Kyra “The Closer” Sedgwick as a vivacious Gina Parker Smith and Alison “Drag me to Hell” Lohman as a forceful Trace more than do their parts, but neither make a dent in this incomprehensible ipecac.

(JH)

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Grade: F (0 Stars)
Rated: R
Summary: A gamer must free himself from a suicidal game in which he has lost control of his mind.
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler “Kable,” Amber Valletta “Angie,” Michael C. Hall “Ken Castle,” Kyra Sedgwick “Gina Parker Smith,” Logan Lerman “Simon,” Alison Lohman “Trace,” Terry Crews “Hackman,” Ramsey Moore “Gorge”
Genre: Sci-fi / Thriller / Action

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