Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.



Review by Patrick Hodges

It is the future.  The world’s economies have collapsed.  Crime is rampant.  Prisons are overcrowded.  And people, whose collective morality has gone the way of all flesh, turn to a variety of entertainments for their pleasure.  What movie am I describing?  Well, if you said 1987’s The Running Man or either version of the movie Death Race, you’d be correct.  Both of those stories, while cheesy as hell, were enjoyable on a “guilty pleasure” level.  Fun, brainless, eminently watchable. 

This description also, er, describes Gamer, the latest film from the directing team of Neveldine and Taylor, who were responsible for bringing us the craptastic Crank films.  Gamer, however, has a twist that the other films I mentioned did not have.  Rather than having death-row inmates participate in a game for survival using their own skills, these prisoners have implants embedded into their brains which gives the game’s “players” full control over their motions and actions.

The object of the game, called “Slayers”, is simple:  stay alive.  Do so thirty times, and get set free.  The greatest “slayer” of all time is Kable (Gerard Butler), who wants to be released so that he can return to his wife (Amber Valletta) and daughter.  But, as you might expect, nothing is ever that simple.  When a TV journalist (Kyra Sedgwick) has doubts that the game’s creator, billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), may be furthering his own agenda, she starts investigating.  This leads her to an underground movement called “Humanz”, whose leader (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) is convinced that the path Castle is leading mankind will only lead to our destruction.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll expect a lot of action and gory violence in this movie.  And in that, it does not disappoint.  Butler does his best to play Kable as human as possible, and that’s to his credit.  But there were many elements of the story that were either unnecessary or just plain weird, and they ultimately made Gamer a marginal recommendation at best.

I don’t mind cheesy action movies, really I don’t.  In fact, 2008’s Death Race was one of my favorite action films of that year.  But that movie had better action, snappier dialogue and a faster pace.  That movie’s characters played their parts better.  And I would recommend that movie, by a country mile, over this one.  And to Neveldine and Taylor?  Well, to them I’ll just say this:  if you are making a director like Paul W.S. Anderson look GOOD by comparison, then maybe it’s time to go in a different direction.

2 ½ / 5 stars

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