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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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
(Okay)