review for Gamer on AllMovie

Gamer (2009)
by Jeremy Wheeler review

The filmmaking team behind the thoroughly over-the-top Crank franchise strikes out hard with their third outing -- a half-cooked cautionary shoot-'em-up tale whose ADD-inspired visuals do little but bash the audience's brains to an uncaring pulp. Devoid of any character development (or a strong plot), Gamer turns out to simply be a vehicle for Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to go nuts behind the camera when they're not sticking as much T & A on the screen as they can, all the while cowering behind a flimsy excuse for social commentary. This sort of approach might be fine if they put some time into creating a magnetic central character (à la Chev Chelios in the Crank films), but instead, they bore their viewers to death with this far-too-serious dramatic spin on The Running Man, starring Mr. Can't Crack a Smile But Look at My Pecks, Gerard Butler. With warehouse gunfights aplenty, the picture is ruled by a third-rate Demolition Man revolutionary subplot and incoherent action -- that is, when it's not going hyperkinetic in its ugly version of a computer-simulation-addicted world gone horribly wrong.

The picture focuses on Kable, a death-row inmate who's been thrown into a new form of international entertainment called "Slayers" -- an interactive game where viewers can control an inmate through violent battles of grit and guns. If a prisoner survives 30 rounds of combat, they get set free. The corporation running it is owned by Ken Castle (Dexter's Michael C. Hall), who apparently is the richest man in the world, thanks to this show and its predecessor, "Society," where humans control other humans for depraved satisfaction. As the undefeatable Kable inches closer to being set free, he and his user, 17-year-old Simon (Logan Lerman), are recruited by the revolutionary group known as "Humanz," to take down Castle and his mind-controlling industry. With the help of a reporter (Kyra Sedgwick) and the "Humanz" leader (rapper/actor Ludacris), Kable battles his way out of the playing field and into the real world, where only Castle holds the key to reuniting with the wife and child that Kable left behind.

The storyline couldn't be simpler. In fact, it's been told in countless other films time and again. What sets this production apart is the unrestrained way in which it was constructed. The gunfights seem to have been mashed together using hundreds of different shots, all captured by Neveldine and Taylor by means of rollerblades or any other extreme technique they could think of. The end result is one massive headache of a sequence after another, each pummeling the screen with so much movement and editing fury that it's impossible to discern -- or care about -- anything that's going on. The same can be said about the non-action scenes as well, whether it's a rave scene or an in-your-face montage of future street culture. All of this could be more digestible if it weren't for the film's grotesque view of society years down the line, which is filled with fat, sweaty perverts and incredibly unfunny satirical jabs at the media in obnoxious future-land...And the less that's said about the musical dance number leading to the finale, the better.

While their off-the-wall antics in the Crank films were admired by lovers of wild cinema for putting ludicrous characters in extreme situations, Neveldine and Taylor only amp up the extreme part of that equation in Gamer. Thus, they portray much of the general public as extreme weirdos who are filmed with extreme camera angles in extreme costumes doing extreme things -- none of which registers as anything more than annoying. This filmmaking team needs to step back and reassess what made them interesting in the first place -- and stick to that -- if they want to last beyond this movie.