Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gamer (2009)

Fun, but ultimately hollow rumination on the future of gaming and interactive technology. Gerard Butler plays Kable, the headliner of a reality show called Slayers, involving remote-controlled Death Row inmates competing to the death for a chance at freedom. The derivative, Battle Royale-esque plotline is not among the films detriments; the plot has enough intricacies, and moves quickly enough, to avoid leaning on its ostensibly tired premise. The action scenes within the game are very well handled, and do, at points, truly feel like live-action renditions of video game action, a la Call of Duty. The film gets going once you meet Kable's handler, a teenage kid who bought the rights to play him online. He gets involved in a revolutionary attempt, and the film begins to echo The Running Man. However, the broad satire of the film, Neveldine/Taylor's trademark kinetic energy, and the perversity of elements such as a SimMolester named Rick Rape played by Peter Petrelli keep the film from being a total waste of time.

Butler is strong, and believable as a trumped-up action hero, but boring; there is no question that Jason Statham's self-awareness and undiluted machismo would have ideally suited this project. The kid who plays Kable's handler, as well as Amber Valletta as Kable's wife, are typical, shallow, and forgettable, more so than any major character in the Crank films. Kyra Sedgwick, John Leguizamo, Alison Lohman, and Terry Crews are underused, but register nonetheless; Ludacris's appearance is just embarassing and pointless. However, the cast's true saving grace is Dexter, Michael C. Hall. His villainous performance as the mastermind behind Slayers, and the technology behind it, is a hilariously fun creation. He puts on a vaguely southern drawl, sniffs every object he interacts with, and generally acts like the creepiest summbitch alive; by the time he is dancing to "I've Got You Under My Skin" while beating up Gerard Butler, you almost want him to win just so he'll earn some more screen time. The film never regains the energy it contains when he is onscreen, and his devotion to the over-the-top nature of his character is one of the few truly excellent touches of the project.

Slightly Recommended for fans of action or war video games and Running Man/Battle Royale-esque plots. Crank fans take heed; this is not a hair on the ass of either of those Neveldine/Taylor masterpieces.

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