It would seem Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor haven’t grown tired of directing action movies, returning once more to the genre with Gamer.

It would seem Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor haven’t grown tired of directing action movies, returning once more to the genre with Gamer. The film’s opening sequence takes us through a montage of world locations, where we can see ads for a game known as ‘Slayers’ in which real death row inmates are controlled by people in shooter style video game for the chance at freedom. All they have to do is survive 30 games. We’re then thrown into an energetic action sequence with Kable (Gerard Butler) where, quite honestly, I couldn’t tell what was going on, but I’ll get back to that later. What follows is a massive exposition sequence in the form of an interview with the primary antagonist of the film, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). From then on, the story is one we’ve all heard before, about a man falsely accused of a crime to be used in a competitive event because he brings in so much more money.
In fact, we can draw many parallels between this film and last years remake of Death Race. Both feature men falsely accused of their crime. Both men are trying to get to their daughters. Both of them are taking part in an event that has life or death stakes. And in both the event is presented as a way to fix the penal system in America.
Lack of originality aside, the biggest issue I had with this film was my inability to watch it properly. I’m not saying I went blind or that the screen went blank, I just couldn’t really see what was going on. If the camera wasn’t too shaky, the cuts were too fast. If neither of those bothered me it was the bad lighting. It was quite disappointing because the action sequences sounded great, I just wish that I could have followed them properly.
Of course, that’s not all there is to complain about. There are a lot of heavy handed metaphors in the game. One being that the only two ‘gamers’ we see in the film are a spoiled teenage nerd and a massively overweight pervert. It’s very obvious, and sort of unnecessary. This film could have a message, and it does try to, but it tries both too hard and not enough, shifting between showing us how inhumane the spectacles are then relishing in them as action sequences.
The acting is sadly dreadful. Gerard Butler still can’t shake his accent when he needs to, even though he spends the majority of the film not speaking. He also still seems to throw a bit of Leoniadas into this performance. Ludacris does a decent job, portraying an underground resistance character with shades of the Matrix thrown in. But most of the performances feel bored and drained of energy, a sign of bad direction.
It isn’t all bad news. The effects work is brilliant, especially for a film with a relatively small ($12.5 million, about 1/20th the cost of the last Harry Potter film). We get beautiful displays for the futuristic computers, little in short heads-up displays for the game shots, and a lot of explosions and other work. It helps toward the great atmosphere found in the film, but none of it really takes the film up to properly watchable levels.
It isn’t the worst thing you’ll see this year, so I’m giving it a 4 out of 10

Written by

Luca Mule Stagno

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