Some times you just can’t trust reviewers.
Sure, this one you can – this review is awesome, naturally – but most reviewers just don’t get it.
Take Gamer, for example, the result of giving the guys who made Crank and Crank 2 far too much money, and a camera. However, this doesn’t mean they make crappy films, and UWE Boll should really take note. What these guys really excell at are fast-paced, speed-freakingly fun pieces of fierce film with a high-concept hook to reel you in. However bloody, silly and violent it appears on screen, it’s always obvious how firmly their tongues have been wedged in their cheeks.
It’s this cheekiness that sets Gamer apart from the kind of dross it gets landed next to in the big Blockbuster bargain bin. Yes, the film’s big, loud and on the surface, very annoying. It’s doubtful it will trouble the snot-nosed voters at the Oscars any time soon. But that’s because Gamer’s having a lot more fun down the pub with all its mates.
So, what’s the story? It’s simple.
In a near-future society, nano-tech mind control has been created and relentlessly exploited by the entertainment industry. Two ‘games’ dominate the scene. First there’s ‘Society’, a Second Life sendup with real people being made to interact with each other in any sick and twisted way the blobby gamers can come up with. The other, messed up game is ‘Slayers’, basically every First Person Shooter video game in the world where the player runs around with a gun, shooting total strangers. Only it’s blood-and-flesh reality where the game characters are live convicts, getting forced to blast each other apart by their remote players. The games have become a worldwide obsession, and the most famous survivour of Slayers is the touch-as-nails Kable (Gerard Butler, perhaps filling in for Jason Statham…). He’s a convict who is forced to fight for his life every night, and his controller is a teenage boy who owns a very cool 3D computer, controlled by body motion. Naturally, Kable was wrongly convicted (shades of Fortress here) and there’s a deeper conspiracy at work that links him to the evil, morally bankrupt Ken Castle (Michael C Hall) who owns both games and most of the world along with it. Only a small protest group known as ‘Humanz’ are trying to stop the tide of commercialised mind control, and the odds are stacked against them. Of course, Ken Castle has also kidnapped Kable’s wife and daughter. So he’s evil, ok? Let the battle commence!
While the story isn’t remotely new, (it’s Fortress, ok? Rebels and everything) the execution of it certainly is. Nothing looks quite like the films these guys make – it’s kinetic and wakes you up faster than a bucket of mocha frappaccinos. The sugar rush never lets up. You might think this is a dumb, lowbrow shoot-em-up and at no point does it really try to be anything deeper. On the other hand, it’s insightful, dumb fun with a little reminder about being human hidden amongst the gratuitous blood, gore and general sweariness. ‘Getting it’ depends entirely on how familiar you are with the virtual world they’re very clearly sending up and the style in which they do it.Somewhere in here is a little question about how far you would go to play with other people. How healthy is our virtual world? etc. It illustrates this non-too subtley when a man and woman hook up in ‘Society’, whilst being controlled by two sterotypical fat, repulsive male gamers. It’s a depressing look at the dark back-end of the online role play fantasies.
It’s actually very similar to Surrogates, which I found fairly bland despite a similar human vs machine high concept. Gamers both effectively gets and shows the attraction of the fast-paced, ridiculous fantasies of online life. There are a few problems with the ‘gamer’ playing setup, mind you, such as how many death row convicts ready for slaughter are out there, exactly? Gaming has also become a bit of a spectator sport, as surely not everyone can get a go? As a result, it’s more like pro-wrestling but, you know, real. Everyone bays for blood in time honored Gladiator tradition. That’s the point, and it cheerily lampoons the techno obessions of our time. It’s a modern B-movie, basically, and I note that academics love to pore over those like historical social documents summing up the times that the likes of ‘Thing From Another World‘ were made in. Well, Gamer will reach this category in, by modern timing, about four years.
If you give Gamer a chance, it will reward you with unapologetically over the top car chases, a LOT of people being blown up, ladies being very, very naughty and Gerard Butler proving you don’t have to be Jason Statham to kick people in the head. If you’ve spent any time online at all, you’ll probably enjoy this. Just, don’t take it to seriously. It’s a teeny, tiny little bit smarter than it looks.
Beer. Pizza. Superviolence. Sorted.