By: Robb Antequera
I’m not a gamer by any means. I mean, I like video games, but they’re not really a big deal to me. Hell, my 13 year old nephew has been kicking my ass thoroughly in Call of Duty since he was 10 (he thinks that shit is funny too. Little shit. Tio loves you, buddy!). So gamer culture is not something I’m really synonymous with. So imagine my shock when I was immediately smitten by the subtle, but chaotically brilliant look into the future of gamer culture that is Gamer.
Gamer stars Gerard Butler as John Tillman, a death row inmate who has become affectionately known to the world as Kable through his appearances in the First Person Shooter game Slayers. Run by computer programmer Ken Castle using nanotechnology, Slayers takes real life inmates and puts them in battle arenas, where they’re controlled by gamers from all around the world. If a slayer survives 30 battles, they will be set free. As Tillman/Kable comes close to reaching the 30 mark, and getting to see his wife and daughter, he begins to suspect Castle is going to renege on the deal. So with the help of some unlikely allies, he must find a way to escape and save his family…
Wow. Who would’ve thought we’d get this level of crazy but interesting introspection from the Crank guys? Yep, you heard me right. The writing/directing duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Tyler, the creative team behind the 2 Crank movies are the ones behind Gamer. And like the Crank movies, Gamer is 100% NOT for everyone. Hell, I don’t think it’s even for everyone who liked Crank 1&2. Gamer features all the hallmarks of those movies (lewd, crude, and absolutely batshit insane), but in my opinion, it’s something more.
For example: The movie opens up with an all out combat scene. Kable is killing bad guys left and right. Blood, guts, limbs and even whole bodies are flying all over the place. He then goes up to a vantage point to get the drop on more bad guys. But then, he hears someone coming behind him.
See, the players completely control the movements of the slayers, but the slayers are also 100% completely aware of their surroundings. And while Kable knows someone is coming up behind him, his controlling player, 17 year old Simon (Logan Lerman) doesn’t yet. So Kable can do nothing until Simon notices. Also, Slayers are further hampered by the “ping”, a lag between the commands of the player, and the reaction of the slayer. A small lag, but during battle? Absolutely deadly.
So right off the bat, we get the crazy, gory action of Crank, but with an extra bit of character and tension in there as well. Watching Kable say “Turn me around.”, then begin to subtly but uncontrollably shake as he waits for the command to come in, all the while hoping the lag passes fast enough to react is really mesmerizing stuff.
And the fact that it is mesmerizing is all due to Gerard Butler’s performance as Tillman/Kable. He really is this movie’s anchor. Just the image of his sorrowful, bewildered face trying to make some semblance of sense out of all the insanity while his body mindlessly goes around gunning people down is incredibly powerful and haunting. He knows this is all crazy, but there isn’t a damn thing he can do to stop it, and I feel Butler portrays that exceptionally.
He’s not the only one though, as the amazing cast really back him up. Actors like the aforementioned Lerman, Kyra Sedgwick, Alison Lohman, John Leguizamo, Terry Crews, Ludacris, Amber Valletta, and scene stealer Michael C. Hall as Castle all give fantastic performances to make this a great ensemble of performers… especially for this kind of movie.
Now, let’s touch on the story for a second. Like I said before, if you seen the Crank movies, then you know what to expect. But also added is a sense of horror in the future that the filmmakers are showing us. Basically, the more connected we become to technology, the more disconnected we become to humanity. Nothing we haven’t heard before, but I found this take to be a refreshing look at a world like that, especially in comparison to the heavy handed nature of almost exactly the same message in The Condemned with Stone Cold Steve Austin. But I know a lot of people don’t like feeling like they’re being preached to by movies. So how you take it is entirely up to you.
But, if you feel like you’d be into that sort of stuff, with a huge dash of lunacy, gore by the boatload, and awesome action added in, give Gamer a look. But, you’ve been warned. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to my nephew repeatedly call me trash as he kills me another 80 times in Call of Duty. Isn’t that fun??
Robb Antequera, aka The Cinema Drunkie, is a simple man from Brooklyn, New York who was raised on Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, Comic Books, and Saturday morning cartoons. He’s the host of the podcast The Action Drunkies, and a permanent panel member on the Horror podcast The House that Screams, as well as a writing contributor to Ultimate Action Movie Club, Film Combat Syndicate, Behind the Screams, and his own personal blog The Cinema Drunkie.