Gamer Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated September 7th, 2009 at 10:01 pm,

Short Version: Never quite reaching the “Good” mark and hovering just below “OK,” Gamer opens the 2009 Fall movie season with plenty of shooting, death, blood and confusion.

gamer gerard butler as kable michael c hall Gamer Review
Screen Rant’s Paul Young reviews Gamer

I’ve written this review for Gamer three times now and with each iteration I just can’t seem to find that slightly mocking tone I like to use so much – not to mention each one has been over 2000 words long and there is no way this movie deserves that much effort.  But I thought, “Am I’m trying too hard to be a ‘professional’ movie critic? No one really listens to them very much; people would rather listen to what their friends think of the movie. I wonder if we have any more Twinkies and Cheez-Wiz?” I’m just telling you what I thought; I never said I would edit those thoughts.

So I’ll tell you the same thing I told my buddy after watching Gamer, “It’s completely worth the $5 matinee price I paid to watch it.” There is no way I’d paid full admission to watch this movie because, frankly, it just isn’t worth $9 – $12 of my hard earned money. If you don’t catch it this weekend for the matinee price, no worries, just grab it during the week or wait until next weekend and turn it into a double feature by watching 9 afterwards. Trust me, you are not going to miss anything special by waiting a few days.

Now, I don’t want to ruin the movie for you (the directors do a good enough job of that already) but I will give you a synopsis…

Gamer is set “years from this very moment” where advertising is allowed on everything, including the Great Pyramids. Egomaniacal software magnate Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has invented a brain controlling product called Nanex that allows the mental control people by other people. He uses prison convicts to play out bloody battles called “sessions” in his game “Slayers,” that he then charges the entire world to watch via pay-per-view.

Enter convict Kable Tillsman (Gerard Butler) who has survived 27 sessions in the brutal game of life or death – three more sessions and he is a free man. But Kable holds a secret that Castle can’t afford to have get out, so he introduces convict Hackman (played by a very large Terry Crews) to the game – but here’s the rub: Unlike Kable, Hackman isn’t being controlled by a player and holds a major advantage.

There is also a group of rebels (for lack of a better word), called Humanz led by Ludacris, who aren’t hip to Castle’s mind control jive, and feel Kable is the key to bringing him down; but instead of protesting, they hang out in an abandoned basement, playing air hockey and old Atari console games, and hacking Castle’s signal causing him much grief, while trying to break Kable out of the game.

gamer 1 Gamer Review

Why wear a jacket when you're not wearing pants?

Once out, Kable seeks vengeance on Castle for framing him for murder, turning his wife (Amber Valletta) into a whore in his other game “Society” – think The Sims with real people – and taking away his daughter. Why did Castle do all this? Your guess is as good as mine. After you watch the film and figure it out please let me know because as far as I can tell, it was never explained. So basically, at the end of the day, Gamer is nothing more than a weakly told story of one geek’s ill-conceived attempt at world conquest (YAWN).

Let me quickly list the good parts of Gamer: Gerard Butler’s acting.

Now the list of the bad parts of Gamer: Everything else, including Gerard Butler’s character.

Confused? So was I. Honestly, I like Gerard Butler in just about everything he does, Nim’s Island, 300 and even the romantic (un)comedy The Ugly Truth, but he is at his best when playing the action hero. He has the chiseled look for it, the acting chops to pull it off and he has a good chance of replacing one of the great 80′s action heroes; but here, Butler can’t do much with the script or direction from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

Gamer is filled with so much violence, shooting, blood, explosions, flying body parts, exposed breasts, lesbians, and perversion that one would think it was written by two frat boys on a binger. Wait, Neveldine and Taylor also wrote both Crank films so I guess I’m not too far the mark there. I enjoyed both Crank films, so I was really looking forward to watching Gamer, but this attempt seemed more focused on inserting as many cameos for TV actors than any sort of plausible story.

Seriously look at this list of cameos:

John Leguizamo, Zoe Bell, James Roday and Maggie Lawson (both from Pysch), John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) who has the best cameo in the movie.

milo ventimiglia gamer Gamer Review

Amber Valetta and Milo "Rick Rape" Ventimiglia

Only people missing were Brendan Fraser and Carmen Electra, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they were in there somewhere. Everyone’s cameos feel forced and really serve no purpose in the film other than to just have them in there.

In fact, now that I look at the actors and actress involved, it looks like the directors/writers were trying to put as many TV actors into this movie as possible. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) are seriously miscast here and Sedgwick could have been removed from the movie entirely without the story suffering one bit. The only purpose she serves in the movie is to show how a 49 year old woman looks in face glitter.

I was really looking forward to seeing how Hall would shake the Dexter mold and break out on his own but apparently all anyone could think of to make him different was a bad southern accent and a lollipop. I hope he gets better roles in the future because he didn’t need to be in this film. I have to mention the “dance and fight” scene near the end. I literally looked at the screen and mouthed “W…T…F” when it happened. What’s funnier, someone in the theater actually said the words to my acronym.

So what actually works? The action at the beginning of Gamer is pretty intense, although the shaky camera work will hurt your head if you’re sitting too close, and is quite visceral in most places. But just like a video game, it soon becomes repetitive and boring. Everything else: story, acting, pacing, plausibility, just falls flat.

The writers have filled Gamer with every possible misconceived notion of the video gamer sub-culture that they knew. I still can’t tell if they were poking fun at the culture, trying to  explain it to the uneducated masses or heck, maybe they think gamers are really like this because the story as a whole just flops around like fish on the dock, gasping and waiting for someone to put it out of its misery.

gamer 3 Gamer Review

Gerard Butler and a very scary sneer

And for a movie called Gamer, it really doesn’t dig into the “gaming” side of the story very much. If audiences were to believe what they are watching, then the only people playing online video games are young teenage losers, fat invalid perverts and old Asian people. That is seriously the only people they show playing either of the two games “Society” and “Slayer”.

There are literally dozens of men with guns shooting each other during each “session” but we only ever get to see one kid, Simon (Logan Lerman), controlling his icon, Kable. Maybe a better title would have been “Controlled,” since that was the main focus of the movie.

Addressing the gamer stereotype: Simon is a 17 year kid that sits in a special room with holographic images around him, upgrading his icon, downloading porn and video chatting with girls who are willing to pay him or strip just to spend time with his icon. He even gets a couple of 17 year old twins willing to flash the headlights and spend $50 million Euros for the opportunity. OK, so slacker, loser, horn ball teen that does nothing but play online games all day – Check!

And in the game “Society”, were there are thousands of people playing the game, we are only shown 3 – an old Asian woman, an old Asian man and a big, fat, nasty, man living by himself. Unlike the people in “Slayer,” people in “Society” get paid to become icons for others giving over their bodies to be played by other people. It would have been an interesting concept if done properly, but the writers choose, instead, to show the perverted and twisted side of human nature.

gamer 4 Gamer Review

Zoe Bell looking hideous in corn rows.

In fact, the whole concept of Gamer was poorly handled and when it’s all said and done, Gamer is a mostly forgettable installment in the “downfall of society” genre and shows just how low Hollywood thinks we will eventually stoop for entertainment. Like I mentioned before, unless you get discount passes or the early bird special, skip Gamer and cross your fingers that 9 will start the fall season out right.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Hey, as long as it is not a too-much pixelized nudity why been complaining ? :D
    About the bottle, you are totally right, KenJ but that’s really not the worst dumb moment of the movie.
    I mean, there are 2 kinds of improbabilities : One is about some lacking pictures or elements to make it probable, and the other is just totally improbable thing except perhaps in a cartoon. About this fuel bottle, can’t we call it a lack of pictures ? You could easily imagine the soldiers being checked at some door right before the final outdoor.
    Indeed, these pictures aren’t there, and should be, but you can add it in a mental way.

    There are a lot of other “improabilities” working this special lacking way in the film : Another exemple, I think, is the kid using his computer to save The Kable at the very end, for exemple… He does this with a computer checked (and not kept!) by the Police, infested by thousands of spams and malwares, and probably upon an heavy survey from police AND Castle’s peoples ?!
    But, the worst improbability, for me, is The Kable request at the final end, and the fact it is just so nicely accepted by Castle’s peoples.
    These one who in fact would have a lot more interest in doing the whole things an other way : We should assist at some kind of never-ending “Prison Break” plot beyond the jail, with a dark company at the head of which everyone wants to be, and, instead what we see is a little crew of sports fan being finally so gentle with the “heros”. Maximum dumb reached.

    On another hand, I am agree about Castle’s danse : One of the rare intense moments adding a bit of subtleness.
    With a “Gladiator-Kind” hero, it was absolutely necessary to have some charismatic vilains and this does the trick according to me.

    Hell, 790, I am perhaps french but I know my syntax isn’t fine at all :D ! Well, let’s say I just guess it strongly.
    Thank you, whatever ;)
    Yep, you did a good briefing about “The Long Walk”.
    It might be added this one has not a pitch for spectacular things at all: A lot more psychological experience ; no vehicles exploding, no ranged gunfights, no martial arts with wall-jumps, etc…
    Only dozains of marathon walkers, a long but totally classical road, and, at least a jeep with some soldiers behind it all. Of course, you have watchers all around the country and mediatic cover: This is still some sport event!
    But no the usual extreme-comdemned-to-death prisoneers here:
    Only young peoples having signed to be here, only because they are poor and want the winner prize, for a better life.
    The problem is everyone, except the last standing still, will die on this never-ending road: That’s the game.
    No sleep, no pee, no poo, just walk and never stop or do anything stupid, you have signed so you’ll get shot or smashed by the soldiers jeep behind.
    Some peoples in the watching crow across the road are waiting for this, they won’t help you. Others are basically affraid to do anything, even if the event is not closed in some kind of pens at is is usually the case in this kind of story.
    The road is long and this is both physically and mentally a very hard ordeal; you can at least talk to your concurrents (a good way to not fall asleep) That helps to not be alone.
    You can soon become friend of them… And like at war, you know you’ll perhaps see them dying.

    The pretty f#c#ing difference is, here, it could be the damn good only thing you want…

  2. Yah, the ending had a lot of holes, like not only was that kid’s computer supposed to have been scrutinized by the federal government, Keith Richards was awesome BTW, “Pistaccio Butter?? They make that??” lol, he was pretty easy to distract, haha, anyway, not only was his computer looked at, but Castle’s house is outside of the playing area, he shouldn’t have had any control over Kable at that point, unless those “Humanz” people helped, but I thought they were raided and killed. Well, I guess that chick that survived could have given him the program needed to do that…

    And I just figure those guys at the end didn’t care because they didn’t care much for Castle. They didn’t seem to like him very much… But yah, pretty unlikely that they would be so “easy breezy” about it, lol.

    I thought it was entertaining, didn’t say it was a well made movie, lol.

  3. Give me a break. I didn’t realize this was supposed to be Lawrence of Arabia or La Belle de Jour. The trailer lets you know right off the bat that this is a shoot! kill! die! sweat! boom! boobfest! What did you people think it was going to be? Your not film scholars, and your opinions have no clout over Hollywoods inept decisions to keep making simple minded movies.

    I keep reading all these contrasting comments to 80s action movies. What makes this one so different from them? Why do you think they are better? It is the same stuff, it’s all fantasy and fun. No thought required. STOP THINKING.


  4. Picked up “Halo ODST” today and its great. Everything you would expect in a follow up.

  5. It looks really nice, 790 ; on my side, I am still waiting for “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call Of Pripyat” (Not so much money to spend!) ;)

    …Hell, Joe ! I love shooters ! Really.
    Well, I prefer playing them than watching only as I am still owner of a brain, but I can really have fun with a
    Provided they have either a good story(Bourne’s,…) or even a simple excuse of a story (Rambo4,… )
    The only thing is, please, just not a very-bad-and-yet-seen-thousand-of-times-in-earlier-80′s-story :D

  6. Games like Stalker and Far Cry perpetuate the ejecting brass out of the left side of the weapon retardedness from so many shooters where it’s obvious the makers have never held a real firearm in their lives. Or like in Halo where the handgun is more accurate and powerful than their assault rifle, lol. I always referred to it as their sniper pistol, hahaha.

  7. At least in these both two games , developers implemented systms of degradative weapons ; what means basically that using it is indeed making it used and harder to use.

    In STALKER series, someone really curious about weapons would have noticed quickly how much the developers have wanted to be closed to the reality and how much they wanted to share this with the player, for exemple, taking care of all the incompatilbilities between weapons, accessories and ammos from OTAN, VARSOVIE or derivated weapons (so many different ones in this game !)

    Not all the games are proposing this kind of details about weapons : Taking them as exemples of what is bad in First Person Shooter, today, is just kidding.
    Halo is Sci-Fi and I guess Sci-Fi needn’t to be realistic, at least about technologies.
    About story, that’s something else :D !!!

  8. Actually, weapons with close tolerances actually work BETTER after being broken-in… And to actually use a weapon until it’s unusable will take like tens of thousands of rounds…

    But ok, if they think putting that in the game is more important than something as simple as having the brass eject out of the correct side, then more power to them. Personally logic would have told me that it’s far easier to model a weapon after a real weapon, than to try to invent something just so you can see brass flying in front of your face…

  9. @Ken J

    Unless they clean the carbon residue build-up from the barrel and working parts from time-to-time the useful life of an automatic weapon is a lot less than tens of thousands of rounds.

  10. Well, games don’t have the character using the bathroom, loading up magazines, drinking water, sighting in the weapons, putting on the holsters, or any of those mundane things, so cleaning the weapons will be among those “presumed” actions the characters must do between the times of you controlling him/her…

    Speaking of which, I need to do that, haven’t cleaned my FAL or my AR for… a while, lol. My own little torture test, but really just me being lazy… But so far in my accidental torture test, no jams yet, so that’s good news…

  11. Ken J

    Maybe they should introduce it as a mini-game = wire-brush, pull through and oil to prevent stoppages… or maybe not :P

  12. Man, I’m too lazy to want to do that in real life, why would I want to do that in a game??? lol