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GAMERZ (director/writer: Robbie Fraser; cinematographer: Paul Gavin; editor: Jim Allison; music: Iain Cook; cast: Johnny Austin (Davy), Ross Finbow (Ralph), Jamie Honeybourne (Gavin), Eileen McCallum (Nan), Stacey Sampson (Julie), Danielle Stewart (Marlyn), James Young (Lennie), Ross Sutherland (Hank), Edward Tudor-Pole (Dr. Denham); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Gavin; Terra Entertainment; 2005)
“Ends up being more than just a film about gamers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Robbie Fraser helms this engaging and poignant direct-to-DVD comedy/drama from Scotland. It’s a geek film about gamers that ends up being more than just a film about gamers. It leads to an intense love triangle story and of a group of gamers caught between living in an escapist fantasy world who find they must grow up and live in the real world as reality comes crushing down on them.

It’s set in contemporary Glasgow. Incoming university freshman Ralph (Ross Finbow) is a brainy nerd obsessed with a role-playing fantasy game (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) that he’s created himself. In his slum neighborhood the orphan, who lives with his loving Aunt Nan (Eileen McCallum), is the frequent target of beatings from a local gang led by his nemesis Lennie (James Young).

At the university Ralph takes the offer of Dr. Denham (Edward Tudor-Pole), his physic’s professor, to be a teaching assistant because it gives him access to the photo copy machine where he can duplicate his rulebook for his intricate game The Reign of Z’Rennk. He soon hooks up with the students on campus who are gamers, the slovenly always burping head-banging theology student Hank (Ross Sutherland), the gawky neurotic risk management student Davy (Johnny Astin), and the beautiful unattainable mysterious Goth girl Marlyn (Danielle Stewart) – she’s so into the fantasy that she believes herself to be an elf even when not playing the game. Ralph is instantly smitten with her, as she easily passes muster for a geek dreamgirl. Showing off his superior gamesmanship, Ralph immediately becomes the control-freak gamekeeper and takes his fellow gamers on a wild ride through a deserted and dank part of the university where they don’t have permission to meet. Things are going well for Ralph until Lennie, the thug small-time drug dealer and car booster, has just experienced a personality transformation after seeing The Lord of the Rings trilogy while on acid and coerces Ralph to let him be in his gamer group. Marlyn takes to Lennie’s advances and it stirs up a jealousy in Ralph, who leads them into the game’s angst-filled climax where the fantasy and real worlds clash.

Inspired by Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated film “The Lord of the Rings,” Fraser does a fine job with the fantasy scenes emanating from the game. They are filmed in silhouette against colored backgrounds in a technique Fraser calls “shadowplay.” Though I could care less about such games, the film held my interest throughout. Even the thick Scottish accents weren’t much of a hindrance, as everything that needed to be understood came across clearly. It’s the kind of film where even geeks and non-geeks might agree that it had its finger on what makes a gamer tick and how they might be perceived by non-gamers as a bit odd.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”