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. I agree with a goodly part of the review. However, even though I had high hopes for the entertainment value of the film and was disappointed on a few fronts, overall I think it was worth the price of admission if only to see Gerard Butler in a kick ass role. I had the same reaction to the dance number-wtf?

    The script sucked out loud, the actors under or over used. I also thought that Society was a good idea but they chose only the most base way of showing it. The players, especially the large oily disgusting disabled man playing the wife icon was a slap in the face of anyone online and I’ll never look at Wizards 101 in the same light again. Lol.

  2. Half your review is a retelling of the film, with complaints about cameos that are ‘forced’? Explain that to me. I mean don’t really. Since I don’t watch much bad tv, I don’t see them as cameos but actual parts that drove the story.

    “And for a movie called Gamer, it really doesn’t dig into the “gaming” side of the story very much”

    You know the Saw movies don’t talk much about Saws either.

  3. Touche’ Justin, Touche’ :)

    The difference is if the movie was called Saw and was about a hardware store owner and all they did was show hammers, then that would be the equivalent of what they have done with Gamer.

  4. @ ogb

    Criticizing is hardly the word I would choose. But still Ludacris is not a professional actor so I would not expect quality acting from him. And no one is born a pro actor, hell even some pro actor’s can’t act and unfortunately we have all watched movies that have people who are not classified in the occupation of ACTOR. I was surpirsed Ludacris got the Role in Max Payne, but that movie was doomed to failure even without his minor role. As for the roles they can pull off and movies you listed, I’m glad too see Hollywood diversifying a little not always type casting rappers for stereotypical roles because its “easier” for them to pull off.


    Im a gamer and game programmer, and this movie is like a turd that won’t flush. the only “gamers” IMHO that will enjoy this movie are the underaged, red bull chugging, drink it cuz it says extreme mountain dew lovin people who think anything with CGI or blows up is oscar worthy

  5. Awh man! This movie actually looked good. Oh well.

    I’m glad Gerard did good though. He always does. He rocks!

  6. @ogb

    Remember, I actually thought Death Race, Punisher War Zone and G.I. Joe were entertaining. :)

    When it comes to these movies here’s the hierarchy:

    A. Good and entertaining.

    B. Not great but still entertaining.

    C. Not great and not entertaining.

    I am able to enjoy movies in category B and often give them decent reviews. But SOME movies do fall into category C.


  7. And is this a “C” movie?

  8. It’s a B minus

  9. I totally disagree. Best scene of the movie was Michael C Hall singing w/his assassin back up dancers/singers. The only thing the movie is missing for me was more Michael C Hall. I really thought he was awesome.

  10. @ SIN187UM

    What I’m saying is that if you didn’t like the first Crank,what the hell did you honestly expect from the second film?!

    Why even bother seeing the second on if you didn’t like the first one?Did you actually think that it was going to be any different from the first one?

  11. @ Longshanks

    Aside from free will, I chose to see Crap (I mean Crank) 2 because I thought it would be a step up like Transporter 2 was a step up from the First Mediocre Transporter, also there wasn’t anything else playing that particular weekend I wanted to see, and it actually started out promising until Bai Ling came on screen and then it was down hill and there was no turning back. Not saying she was the one thing that ruined the film for me but the crap GTA style radar, the lame ass Godzill fight scene and other things I have since blocked out put that on my MEH list. There are plenty of people who don’t like the first movie in a series and will watch a series to hope for something better, example Star Wars Episode I – III.

  12. @ 790

    ““Gamer” looks like it just throws glorified violence up there and calls it action/sci-fi.
    I can see how some of the video game players think this is cool, but trust me as you get older seeing people get killed for lack of good writing gets very boring and
    demeaning overall.”

    Hear hear!! Well said!! :)

  13. I happen to think Zoe Bell looks badass cool.

  14. Why wear a jacket when you’re not wearing pants?

    because its future!!!!!!

    u know hollywood needs some f

  15. I thought this movie was good. It had a story, it had romance, it had action and it had characters to relate to. To me, that is the making of a good movie. The actors did a good job portraying their characters and interacting with each other. i give a 3 outa 5.

  16. Reminds me of a bad Running Man rip off, couldnt pay me to watch it

  17. Kale, exactly…I knew from the previews that they took the concept of the The Running Man, then I read an early review and found out it was the exact same thing except with Gaming.

  18. Idk i thought Michael C. Hall was great. Hes just a interesting actor all around. I literally had no idea that he could sing before this movie. But you have to admit, the singing and dancing scene was really neat. I didnt even notice that was Milo until i read this review. I thought the whole world of society is more comparable to Second life than it is too the Sims. I honestly thought is a knock off of the new bruce willis movie Surrogates which is coming out this month

  19. John: You do know that M.C. Hall is not singing right? It’s Sammy Davis Jr.

  20. I give this movie a C+ — there are far worse films — this film never tries to be more then what it is. A senseless action flick that is unnecessarily violent.

    I just can’t believe that some people find Crank anymore enjoyable then this one. These aren’t movies meant to be taken serious. And I think Gamer is way better then Crank… Crank 2 are you joking?

    And don’t worry Michael C. Hall — you’re a great actor.

  21. Another key indicator that the Gaming Community is not a bunch of sheep that promote this movie is that Game Informer Crushed it in there Aug/Sept Issue.

  22. Not sure how I will find this movie after reading your review :-& Can’t wait to see how Michael C. Hall does in Gamer. I always see him as Dexter… Never got into Six Feet Under.. Some people have said they always think he looks gay! :-( I have to wait until Gamer hits the UK screens tho.. NOT HAPPY!

    The previews of Gamer make him look twisted and controlling… not a far stretch ;-)

  23. I remember “The Long Walk”. Wasn’t that a short story?

    A great allegory of our current State,,,

  24. Well as suggested by my username (to warn anyone about my poor US syntax :D), I am living in France, so… That might be perhaps a bit different here from where you are – Well, probably not so far: Every political state is somehow closed to be a corrupted system owned by a few mad peoples only… But there is still, for now, in France some strong social resistances to the process of “mondialisation” (Might be translated by the “globalization” word in UK/US?)
    Peoples here are very on a passive/agressive mode: One day they just accept silly things, and the other they just bite their master without warning. It isn’t really a good environment for totalitarism ; which not means it couldn’t occur whatever.

    To get back to “The Long Walk”, yes, this is a short story, written in USA in 1979, and it might become soon a movie produced by the same guy who made “the mist”.
    I am not sure this novel could ever become a correct movie, but this will always remain for me one of the greatest simple short SF writing I have read, with a so hit-you ending!
    “GAMER”, “à contrario” would be such a poor novel if it was written ! …But as a movie, I suppose it is offering a good experience enough to pay for your cinema ticket (Only leave before the upcoming happy-ending, if you don’t want to vomit your popcorns ;)…)

  25. @FR_dZastreux, your syntax looks fine. ;-)

    Yeah for those that haven’t read “The Long Walk” its a dark story about a contest to see who could walk the farthest without stoping. Anyone that stops to take a break gets three warnings then there shot dead. The walk never stops til there’s just one person left. They don’t ever stop walking, its 24/7 across the US.
    Correct me if I’m wrong on any of that FR_dZastreux.
    I recall it had a pretty dark ending.

  26. @Paul

    **Slight spoiler for those who hasn’t seen it**
    I just saw this movie with a friend, and I’m sure someone already said it, but just in case, I just want to mention that the movie actually does explain why Castle was trying to kill Kable, and his wife wasn’t forced into prostitution, she volunteered to be a member of Society as a paid job. That scene in the child custody hearing office place established that. When he looks at her records and sees that she’s an icon in Society, she responds with “It’s a job…”

    Remember the Kable was one of Castle’s first test subjects for his mind control technology and he made him kill his friend as part of the testing, to see if he can really control someone enough to make them do things they don’t want to do. In the end he wanted to put that to the test one last and ultimate time by making Kable kill his daughter, but, well, you saw the ending…
    ***END SPOILER***

    Anyway, I was pretty entertained by it, and I didn’t see that they were saying all gamers are fat or old, that’s just Society, their stereotype for gamers seemed more like young kids like Simon.

    And there were some small little tidbits in there just for gamers, like that guy “tea-bagging” the other guy after he killed him, lol. I’ve been doing that in first person shooters from WAY back in the day in the ORIGINAL Rainbow Six. No, not this garbage Ubisoft makes now, back when they were developed by a company chaired by Tom Clancy himself called Redstorm Entertainment. But back then, we didn’t call it tea bagging, we just referred to it as humping their corpse, lol.

    For the non-gamers in the forum reading this, when you got killed in first person shooters, a lot of them would show your dead body in 3rd person view, and of course those people who are already dead can “spectate” from a 3rd person perspective anyone they like. So when you kill someone, you walk over their dead body in the game, and hit the crouch button. When you’re crouched all the way down, it’s almost like you’re sitting on them, then you just keep tapping the crouch button so you’re moving up and down on them like you’re humping them, lol. This is usually seen by the person you just killed, and sometimes other spectators see it and it’s sometimes pretty funny. Yes it’s stupid, but dumb things entertain us ok? lol

  27. Oh, and Paul, I’m sorry, but that dance number toward the end by Dexter, I mean Castle, was one of the highlights of this movie, sorry to say, lol.

    The dumbest part though, was him throwing up and pissing in the gas tank of the truck… Why didn’t he just keep the bottle on him instead of drinking it??? And those dump trucks were driving pretty freakin fast…

    I still like The Running Man more, but this movie wasn’t that bad, pretty entertaining… Too many ugly girl boobs though, ugh, I prefer no nudity than ugly nudity…