95 Minutes // USA // Lionsgate
dir. Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor
Monday, September 7th, 2009 – Silvercity Brampton
starring: Gerard Butler & Michael C. Hall
I didn’t anticipate reviewing this feature, but seeing as how I enjoyed it as much as any other film I’ve seen all year, I decided that it would be criminal to not set aside a few moments of my (somewhat) busy time to discuss this feature in some detail. Not that its an extremely ponderous film but it deserves its fair share of credit. Since most critics are too busy being distracted by the directors’ visual choices to focus on the heart of the film, I’ll do my best to pick it apart for worried, but potentially interested cinema-goers.
Gamer begins with an immediate jolt and doesn’t let you go until the incongruous, if giddily symbolic climax. As easily grasped by the trailer, the film takes place in the not too distant future where technology has evolved into a wonderful, but still feeble advancement. Multi-billionaire Ken Castle (the wonderful, but not yet cinematically viable Michael C. Hall) has taken the world by storm with his new online games. Rather than them being simulations like The Sims, he’s created a way to sterilize any person’s brain so that another person can control them. After his beloved smash game Society – a game in which a person can give up their own inhibition for profit or control someone else’s for a price in a sealed off city – he brings to the people of America a solution for the overbearing nation-wide penitentiary debts; a game entitled Slayer. Not unlike your Halo’s, this game enables any person in the world to pay to partake in this unusual experiment turned ritual. The big name associated with the game is Kable (Gerard Butler), a wrongly convicted murderer on death row. He’s won 26 games – 4 more to freedom. You see, if you win 30 games, you get released from prison – and as long as the person controlling you continues to control you to victory, they get to continue their streak as well – and in this case, it’s a very incessant, rich seventeen year old boy named Simon (Logan Lerman).
Alternating between the main perspectives of Kable and Simon, the story speaks levels about the worrying uncertainty that comes with technological advances. Will our youths really become so prone to sex and violence that seeing real people having their heads decapitated and bodies mangled won’t phase them for a second? These are some of the questions the surprisingly ambitious action directors try to answer.
In a few subplots we get an understanding of all the forces pushing Kable’s fate. His wife, Angie (Amber Valletta) soothes her aching heart by literally turning her brain off and becoming an object for anybody willing to play her in Society. They underplay the character’s purpose at first – you get an inkling that she is our protagonists significent other, but the filmmakers never once shove the notion down your throat and reveal it with passivity.
Of course when this is revealed the generic motivator of the emotionally vacant convict needing to see his wife and daughter once more is put into motion. What the film doesn’t do is exploit flashback scenes and really underplays the few moments the audience finds itself in Kable’s memory bank. Of course, the other subplot revolves around Mr. Castle and his demanding that Kable not be released back into society, bending his own rules to rid himself of the superstar.
What I really like about Neveldine and Taylor is their adamant attraction to exploiting contemporary society for what it is; a vile, shallow place. The majority of the public are self-obsessed and without remorse. This plays a vital role in Gamer, but they decide to take their message a bit further by adding in our longing for escapism. Our wants have been proven more and more throughout the last decade with plenty of unnecessary films and our impetuosity in gaming – among other distractions. Through these two men’s eyes, the future is going to be a very grim reality. Chauvinism is at a high, the poor are treated like animals, children are desensitized to violence and the world cheers when men die.
The screenplay also tends to be smarter than your typical action flick. There are plenty of emotional nuances embedded into each character that make them far more interesting with every moment of further investigated interpretation. Minor characters like Freek (John Leguizamo) can be seen as mentally imbalanced people and placed in dire situations for no other reason apart from more people playing and therefore more profit.
As far as I’m concerned, Brian Neveldine and Mark Taylor are revelations in a genre that’s becoming more bored by the year. Their flashy editing, erratic visual design and semi-propagandist jabs at society tend to ostracize them from any vast critical approval and sometimes they are too smart for their audiences to fully enjoy – but for those who can appreciate a conscious effort to create no non-sense films bursting with adrenaline this will undoubtedly impress. However, as much as I am grateful for a new infusion into the genre, these two have yet to perfect their craft. There is a bit too much drab in the dramatic corner – the prison sequences with Kable were boring at best and the conclusion was very unfortunate – to completely exhilarate its audience.
The biggest highpoint the film has to offer outside the style and format the directors’ like to use is Michael C. Hall who plays the rich deviant antagonist. His slight tics and eccentric ambiance all contribute to a performance as entrancing as the design of Society. He exceedingly highlights the major aspect that stifles this great feature in the cast. Apart from him, the rest of the actors give serviceable performances in an almost zombie-esque fashion.
As long as Neveldine and Taylor continue on this unyielding path, they will surely create the action film that defines this young century. Until then (or at least until their next feature) this is their best movie to date. [7/10]