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Fred Plays Gamer

Published September 8, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Lionsgate
Gamer Gamer
I had intended to just see Gamer for fun, but it’s stuck with me for days after its first midnight showing, so I’ve got to get my thoughts on paper. I liked it. It’s a train wreck, but a fascinating one.

Review: Gamer

It’s like a profound assessment of society’s dangerous potential, made by people who are part of the problem. Neveldine and Taylor didn’t invent the wild camera and choppy editing, and they arguably use their powers for good more than evil, but this is the type of entertainment that leads to the world of Gamer. The filmmakers are able to use their skill to portray this overstimulated world, but once they made this point, they are likely to keep making movies that hype up the collective psyche until no attention can be held by standard communication.

It works in the video game scenes because rendering the action visually incomprehensible makes it feel like I do when I try to play Gears of War. Wait, what just happened? Did I hit something? Why am I dead? That’s the “Slayers” game within Gamer.

So this is about what happens when technology gets so good that you could actually control people in the gaming environments like we have today, be it The Sims or Halo. The former only leads to sexual depravity while the latter could actually, and is probably intended to, result in death.

To me, the film gets more interesting after Kable (Gerard Butler) escapes from the game, about halfway through so I hardly consider that a spoiler. His escape is the kind of crazy sh*t I like to see in movies like Shoot ‘Em Up. Totally unrealistic, but logical so they should absolutely use it in the story. It’s also the film’s most thrilling action sequence, because the progression and goal is easier to follow in the rollerblade camera style.

Gamer is full of fascinating conundrums that, while they may not work in a narrative story, just fill my eyes with wide-eyed wonder that I can’t believe I get to watch a film where this happens. The dance number is exactly what this movie should have been the whole way though. It’s a Crank: High Voltage moment, probably where they got the confidence to make their third film, and the type of surreal entertainment with a point of view that should be Grindhouse cinema.

The idea that a NPC (the only way I can think to identify a human who goes into a sim world to wreak havoc on distant players) would talk to the player controlling his wife to force him to let her follow her rescuer is so meta it wows me. I think the idea that the resistance stocks their hideout with old classic ‘80s era games is significant. I think they’re giving honor to the games that required skill, not just total control to the point that it’s more of a play date than a challenge to over come. It could be deeper than that, but it’s there.

From a sheer real world standpoint, I wonder about the actor who played the fat gamer (Ramsey Moore) controlling Amber Valetta’s “Society” character. The point about what type of person would degrade a pretty girl into sex acts is obvious. What if you were that actor? What would it be like to know that this is the part you got hired for? You look like this, whether by unfortunate genes or personal lifestyle habits, and this is what you represent to the filmmakers. It’s a job, it has a message so its used for good, but you must have to make a lot of peace with that.

Wait, didn’t I say the movie didn’t work? I mean, it’s sort of a mess of techniques and misguided style, yet there’s so much to think about. Milo Ventimiglia’s character suggests so much about what is allowed in this society, and it’s not groundbreaking for a dystopic future but it lets us assume what we already know. Michael C. Hall is brilliant, knows exactly what is called upon for him, and shows yet another dimension to the fun he can have playing psychos. Gerard Butler gives Kable the perfect gravitas to sell the crazy sh*t going on around him.

Hell, I would rather see a movie attempt all of the above and fail than just tow the average line and be mediocre, or even be great at the average action movie. Go for it, blow your wad and let the dust settle.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Lionsgate

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