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GAMER (director/writer: Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor; cinematographer: Ekkehart Pollack; editors: Peter Amundson/Fernando Villena/Doobie White; music: Robb Williamson/Geoff Zanelli; cast: Gerard Butler (Kable), Michael C. Hall (Ken Castle), Alison Lohman (Trace), Amber Valletta (Angie), Logan Lerman (Simon), Kyra Sedgwick (Gina Parker Smith), Terry Crews (Hackman), Ramsey Moore (Gorge), Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges (Humanz Brother), Aaron Yoo (Humanz Dude), Johnny Whitworth (Scotch), Jonathan Chase (Geek Leader); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Rosenberg/Gary Lucchesi/Skip Williamson/Richard S. Wright; Lionsgate; 2009)
“About as gloomy as looking into the head of a hacker.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (“Crank”) write and direct this high-concept dark action sci-fi thriller set in the near future. The derivative plot line (much too similar to Schwarzenegger’s 1987 “The Running Man”) has humans who pay to control other humans by using high tech mind control devices implanted into the brain, in a popular online video game show created by Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). The evil entrepreneur overnight became the richest man in the world. It’s more a video game than a feature movie, and about as gloomy as looking into the head of a hacker.

The current hot virtual reality game is “Slayers,” a follow-up to Castle’s popular “Society,” with the hunky player Kable (Gerard Butler)–a death row inmate, like all Slayer players, who can earn his freedom by completing 30 missions–being the superstar and cult hero of this ultraviolent first person shooter war zone game, who keeps on ticking because he thinks only of returning to his wife and kid. Kable is controlled by the wealthy 17-year-old geek Simon (Logan Lerman), a gamer with rock star status who continues to defy all odds by guiding Kable to victory for more sessions than anyone else has ever guided a player. The back story is that Kable was taken from his family, imprisoned and forced to fight against his will. He has become the modern day gladiator who must survive to get back what was his and, I might add, to save mankind from ‘Big Brother’ Castle’s power over him. To add to the buzz, the disembodied head of Ludacris pops up throughout as he hacks into the TV broadcast delivering cryptic warning messages to the public on a giant screen, Gina Parker Smith (Kyra Sedgwick), the news reporter/talk-show host tagged as the media whore, rants and raves about one thing or another, a psychopathic killer maniac named Hackman (Terry Crews) enters the game bent on stealing the glory from Kable by engaging him in online combat, and Castle chills over how wired he is to the gamer mentality of the populace and is able to deliver really sinister smirks that could scare the living shit out of you if you didn’t realize this is just a friggin’ game and a robotic killer film that could have been acted by wooden puppets and you might not have noticed the difference.

Everything is undeveloped (from storyline to acting), even as it grabs you by the balls and won’t let go until you looked at all the titty shots and blood-splatter. The crass and joyless film celebrates violence and sexual perversity as what rocks the entertainment world, while giving lip service that it’s spoofing such tried and tested sleazy projected big box office entertainment films.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”