In a future mind-controlling game, death row convicts are forced to battle in a 'Doom'-type environment. Convict Kable, controlled by Simon, a skilled teenage gamer, must survive thirty sessions in order to be set free. Or won't he?
Ken Castle is extremely rich, popular and powerful since he invented and started exploiting the virtual online parallel reality games, in which people can either pay as user or be paid as 'actor' in a system of mind-control. The ultimate version, Slayers, fields death row convicts as gladiators in a desperate dim bid for survival, which no-one made yet. The champion, John 'Kable' Tillman, was scheduled to die just before he'ld gain release, but he persuades his teenage 'handler' to hand over the reins so he can fully use his talents and experience. Thus Kable escapes to freedom, only to be chased illegally by Castle's men, yet fights back all the way to his HQ and challenges his evil hidden plans. Written by
Going into this movie, I wasn't really expecting a lot. I had only seen one short preview, which made it look like any other post-Running Man fight-your-way-out-of-trouble action flick that sees the protagonist trapped in a game show-like fantasy, going through army's of bad guys like Pacman through so many of those little pills. I didn't know however, that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writer/director duo that brought us Crank and Crank: High Voltage, were at the helm of Gamer. The first minutes of the movie made that distinctly clear, though, as high powered action and fast paced kinetic camera-work introduce us to the world of Slayer, a first-person shooter that has its inmate characters live and die at the control(s) of real world gamers. Movements of both players and camera and the feel of the game are right on the money if you've ever seen shooters like Counterstrike or Call of Duty.
The world of Gamer is a not too distant future where Castle, an overnight software giant shying the likes of Microsoft and Google, reigns supreme. Its young manager, media mogul Ken Castle, couldn't be more offspring of Generation X or Michael C. Hall's joyfully overacted and clearly Dexter-based part would be played by Coupland himself. The immense riches brought on by his revolutionary gaming technologies make him a have-it-all loner who has lost all contact with the everyday reality spawned by Taylor and Neveldine. The virtual world is slowly replacing the tangible one, as more and more people hook on to games like Society, where you get to control an actual human being in a more-or-less fictional setting, best described as Sims at a Mad Max-themed rave, dressed by Brüno. It is in these aspects that the directors are at their best, using internet and other digital references to portray these future playgrounds, hyper technological media and the next generation of adult entertainment. The kind of future not quite as dark as the one imagined by Orwell, but pretty scary nonetheless, like we're all trapped in the Ministry of Virtual Reality.
If Castle's virtual world Society laid the first bricks for his soon-to-be world dominating company, second invention Slayer certainly paved the rest of the way, captivating a loyal audience the world over. The hero of the game is Kable (a contemporary Ben Richards if you will), or John Tillman outside the map of the game, played by Gerard Butler. A prison inmate who gets a fighting chance for parole, if he successfully completes thirty missions in Slayer. Which means the seventeen-year-old professional gamer that controls him has to beat a world full of other gamers, most notably Terry Crews' Hackman, an all-killing, all-dancing beast of man, whose impressive physique (neck), short singing routine ('I haven't got any strings') and the fact there's no-one in the real world controlling him make him more fierce than Dynamo, Fireball and Buzzsaw combined. Rich background casting is provided as well, seeing supporting parts for Ludicrous, John Leguizamo, Alison Lohman, Milo Ventimiglia and Keith David, among others (although some in a blink-and-you'll-miss-'em capacity), but this is clearly an all-out Butler-show. Quite possibly due to the fact the makers intended to put moviegoers into the perspective of his character as well.
Tillman's wife (Amber Valletta) and daughter on the outside are what keep him going, but we soon find out he hides an important secret as well; one that Castle would very much like to remain hidden. In the end, that gambit combined with the somewhat rushed climax are what amount to Gamer falling short of being a true original, but other than that I highly recommend you go see this movie. The extremely detailed look at a possible future makes it eerily clear we may be closer to an alternative 1984 than we are past it.
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