Movie review: Gamer

gamrUnderneath the chocolatey video-game exterior lies the gooey center of “Gamer”: an unabashedly throwback action film filled with over-the-top violence, a cartoonish villain, unlimited rounds and a half-hearted message drowned out by gunshots that would have fit perfectly back in 1986.

Writer-director team Neveldine and Taylor have infused their previous movies, “Crank” and “Crank: High Voltage,” with a video-game mentality, and here they drop the pretense altogether by having our hero be the star of a real-life video game.

In the near future, billionaire computer whiz Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has captured the public’s imagination with two very different MMOs – a Sims-like “everyday life” creation and a war simulation called “Slayers.” The catch is that real people are the stars of both games, avatars under the virtual control of couch jockeys across the globe.

The biggest star in “Slayers” is Kable (Gerard Butler) an unstoppable killing machine that starts the film only a few victories away from earning his freedom. You see, the players in “Slayers” are violent criminals, and the game gives them a highly unlikely shot at a pardon.

Kable’s under the control of a punk kid who has parlayed his fame at the game into what all teenagers want – girls. But without realizing it, he’s become a pawn in a high-stakes game between Castle and an underground resistance group called Humanz that wants to stop the virtual chicanery.

Of course our man Kable has been unjustly sent to jail, leaving behind a virtuous wife (Amber Valletta) forced to virtually pimp herself in order to make ends meet. Kable’s the key to bringing down the whole game, but that’s only if he can survive.

Let me assure you, lest you think the film is particularly plot-heavy, that the action is unrelenting. Body parts are blown off, uber-weapons of destruction are deployed and fists fly. But Neveldine and Taylor actually rein in some of the showoffy quirks that made the “Crank” films so crazy.

Butler is all rakish charm here – he can fire a weapon and deliver his lines gruffly, and that’s about all it takes. Hall is probably the weak link, even though I know he’s trying to be flamboyant. But I just thought his performance was delivered with all the subtlety of a ham sandwich.

For a B-movie about video games, “Gamer” has an eclectic cast, featuring Kyra Sedgwick, Ludacris, Allison Lohman, that Asian guy from “Disturbia,” Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, Peter Petrelli from “Heroes” and a bunch of other people.

I had a blast with “Gamer” – we don’t get many straightforward, hard-R action flicks down the pike these days, so this is like a breath of down and dirty air.

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~ by Elliott on September 23, 2009.

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