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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.04.09] movie review cyberpunk scifi action

Year: 2009
Directors: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Writers: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8 out of 10

[Special thanks to Marina Antunes, courtesy of Row Three, for the review!]

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have made careers for themselves by making action films. Films with little plot but loads of heart pounding, non-stop, balls-to-the-wall action. They're sometimes rude, sometimes crude and always unapologetic. Pathology was a deviation. Though the duo didn't direct, their story had more thought crammed into ten minutes than both Crank films put together. Gamer is an all together different beast which attempts to marry ideas with the Neveldine/Taylor style of action and the result is sometimes messy but also smart while never forgetting to be a whole lot of fun.

The near future is a crazy place. Advertisements are found everywhere, including the pyramids, and among the familiar brand names is a new beast: “Slayers.” In a world that features advanced and highly developed internet and gaming technology, Slayers is the brainchild of Ken Castle. The game allows players to control an icon in a first person shooter game except the icon is a real person partaking in real combat which results in real death. The icons are death row inmates who have “volunteered” for the opportunity to be set free – they simply have to survive through thirty rounds of carnage. Cable is the best there is: twenty eight games in he's close to release except Cable will never let him go free because Kane knows too much.

Though the trailers have sold this as an out-and-out action film taking place on the “battlefield,” these gaming sessions are the least interesting part of the film. The action is quickly edited, loud and full of exploding set pieces but it's also difficult to follow and it's not always clear what exactly is going on. It's spastic and thankfully limited. The real fun of the film is tucked in the nooks and crannies of the “real” world which, aside from being obsessed by another Castle product (a Sims-like game called “Society”), is divided into either Kable followers or everyone else. It's here that we start to see some of the film's bigger ideas. Themes of corporation vs. the individual, repercussions of technology abuse and addiction. Then there is Society which allows individuals who can afford it, the luxury to play out their crazy, creepy and kinky ideas by essentially renting other humans. Though some might find all of this haphazardly thrown into the mix, it's refreshing to have ideas presented and left to linger, allowing the viewer to take in as much or as little as they want. Dig deep or skim on the surface, the choice is yours.

Even with all of these high concepts floating around, Neveldine and Taylor manage to infuse more than enough fun to keep things light and moving along quickly. It's impossible not to laugh at the dropped in references, some blatant (Jazzercise!) to a little more insider (Hackers), the revival of Bloodhound Gang's “The Bad Touch,” and even the inclusion of a musical number to Sinatra's “I've Got You Under My Skin.” A musical number in the middle of an action film? Few directors could pull this off. If all of this isn't enough, the various cameos should keep viewers on their toes (bonus points if you can spot more than four actors who have appeared in previous Neveldine/Taylor films).

But Gamer isn't all smarts and fun. The film occasionally stumbles, leaving undeveloped plot threads and providing a poorly conceived final showdown and though it also suffers from cheesy and forced dialogue, that camp factor only seems to add to the film's already wacky charm.

Gamer isn't exactly treading new ground. It doesn't provide an entirely new concept nor does it revolutionize either action or sci-fi films. What sets this film apart is that it takes concepts and ideas that we're familiar with and re-purposes them in the Neveldine/Taylor package and it's the packaging (the fast zooms, unconventional angles and blocking, crazy action and wacky humour) that makes it unique and fresh. Some may love it simply as a mindless action film but for those who care to look further, the film presents some concepts worth discussion. A fun action film with a bit of brains? Yes please. I'll take that.

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

The future world created in Gamer is a brilliant satire of our own media obsessed reality, but I found that it was the best part of the film.

The story was small in scope and sloppy and the action was kind of boring. Lots of fast editing and shaking cameras do not make for great set pieces.

Michael C Hall's evil Bill Gates was the best part of the whole film.


Andrew Robinson (12 years ago) Reply

You do realise that not only are you liking one of the worst films of the year but you decided to have the character names all screwed up, Ken Castle is Michael C. Hall and Kable is Gerard Butler. Just thought I'd let you know that.

The action movie had poor action and didn't serve up believable enough characters to help it. The film sucks and I hope it bombs this weekend


Rayne Ford (12 years ago) Reply

Movie review seems to be quite exiting; I am eagerly waiting for its launch.


JackCrow (12 years ago) Reply



I AM JACK (12 years ago) Reply

I thought it was a solid film myself. Not bad for a 12 million dollar action movie.

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