Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Kyra Sedgwick, Michael C. Hall, Ludacris, Aaron Yoo, Alison Lohman, Logan Lerman, Lloyd Kaufman WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor MPAA RATING
Rated R RUNNING TIME
95 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY
"Gamer" is the first film from my recent column, "10 Fall 2009 Films That Are Really Gonna' Suck," to open in theatres and, true to my prediction, "Gamer" sucks.
"Gamer" is labeled a high-concept action thriller set in the year 2034 when humans are able to control other humans in massive scale, multi-player online gaming environments. Kable (Gerard Butler, "300") is a cult hero from the ultraviolent game "Slayers," controlled by Simon (Logan Lerman)at least until he decides to try to gain his independence by fighting back against Castle (Michael C. Hall), the game's mastermind.
Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the same team that gave us the dreadful yet successful "Crank" films, "Gamer" is a lazy, techno-babble rip-off of cyber game flicks from past and present ranging all the way back to "Tron" and all the way up to the "Matrix" films with a few others thrown in that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen them.
By now, it seems inevitable that every unimaginative action flick director in the world utilizes handheld camera work and hyper-editing and calls it authentic action.
They are wrong.
Let's call it what it is- lazy, unimaginative and unskilled filmmaking at its absolutely worst. At least with the "Crank" films, Neveldine and Taylor had the moderately interesting and entertaining Jason Statham to fall back on. With "Gamer," we're left to depend upon Gerard Butler to keep things interesting and, while Butler's had his moments of rather delightful acting, left to his own devices he seems utterly clueless on how to make a character even remotely interesting.
The dramatic story arc behind "Gamer" is that the game's contestants are all death row inmates, promised their freedom if they can survive 30 battles. Kable has been victorious and survived 27 battles, nearing a reunion with his wife (Amber Valletta) much to the chagrine of Castle and to the interest of a reporter (Kyra Sedgwick).
Doesn't this all sound familiar?
Butler essentially does a gothic, or perhaps its a suicidal, version of his "300" persona, a heroic yet morbidly grim man whose character is never developed and for whom we never develop any sense of connection. Michael C. Hall, who is so delightful on "Dexter," is miscast here and never resonates at all as the evil corporate giant. Valletta and Sedgwick's roles are so woefully underdeveloped that it's difficult to imagine what attracted them to the film, especially the critically acclaimed Sedgwick.
Maybe this is Sedgwick's "Jaws 4?"
Not screened for critics and opening on what is widely regarded as one of the weakest box-office weekends, "Gamer" is a throwaway film that should fly through theatres quickly before finding a more appropriate home on DVD.