Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Gamer (2009) ½*

R, 95 min.
Directors/Writers: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Kyra Sedgwick, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, John Leguizamo, Zoe Bell

The only thing saving this movie from the dreaded zero star rating is that there are actually some ideas behind this smorgasbord of horridness. Really, this movie isn’t a far cry from “The Hunger Games” in concept. It’s also incredibly similar to many other violent sci-fi movies, like “The Running Man” and “Death Race”. The difference is this one makes all of those look like masterpieces.

Gerard Butler plays a convict in a future world where prisoners are offered the option to play in a “video game” involving real live explosions and real flesh and blood “icons” being operated by other players. The emphasis is on the blood. If these icons can last through 30 “missions”, they will be granted their freedom. No one ever makes it to 30. In fact, Butler’s character is the only one to have made it past 10. With 28 completed missions, he’s about to win his freedom. Who thinks anyone is going to let him do that without destroying the whole system? I don’t see any hands.

The problem here is that the directing/writing team of Neveldine/Taylor really didn’t want to do a whole bunch of work with all that writing crap. It’s over rated. They’re method is just to shoot a bunch of action sequences and try and make some sense of it in the editing room. These so called missions don’t seem to really involve any sort of mission at all. There’s just a bunch of explosions and people shooting each other. There doesn’t seem to be any sorts of goal to this game beyond don’t git yerself blowed up.

On top of that, there is no sense of what the real world is like at all. All we ever see of the real world are two of the gamers, one fat and surrounded by flat screen TVs in a dark room; the other, Butler’s controller, only seems to exist in a virtual room that is obviously more technologically advanced than the other pervert’s room. There are terrorists who have no introduction or lives of their own beyond showing the audience that some people don’t like these games. And the villain is a ridiculously rich madman who also lives far from the real world. There is no entry point for the audience to relate to anything going on in this world.

Few of the action sequences have any sort of linear order of events. Characters aren’t given any backgrounds beyond explaining how they relate to each other. Even that is extremely perfunctory. It’s all blood and guts and foul language, and nothing makes much sense even to the people in it. This entertainment is the very distinction of time you will never get back.

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