Review by Rob Carnevale
MARK Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writer-directors of Crank and its sequel, surpass even their crass standards with Gamer, a violent and mind-bendingly stupid futuristic thriller starring Gerard Butler.
Having come up with a semi-decent premise (by their standards), the duo blow it amid a chaotic succession of set pieces that highlight just how incapable of coherence or subtlety they are as filmmakers.
Set in the not too distant future, Gamer envisages a world that’s caught in the grip of a violent global gaming phenomenon known as Slayers, the latest concept from the mind of multi-billionaire Ken Castle (Dexter‘s Michael C Hall).
The game finds Death Row prisoners controlled by online players in real-life battle scenarios. If they survive 30 encounters, they’ll receive a pardon.
One such Slayer is Kable (Gerard Butler), an unwilling participant who is three missions short of getting away. But while he’s desperate to return to his wife and child, the odds become increasingly stacked against him or his controller completing the mission.
Borrowing elements from The Running Man and The Matrix (among many others), Neveldine and Taylor attempt to bombard viewers with as many outlandish set pieces and ideas as possible.
But while there are guilty pleasure moments such as seeing Hall perform a song and dance routine to I’ve Got You Under My Skin as a pre-cursor to a major fight scene, or some of the crazy nightclub ideas thrown your way during a frenzied rave shoot-out, such moments are undermined by the exploitative nature of the violence and sex on show.
Quite simply put, Neveldine and Taylor don’t know how to keep the camera still and sacrifice any of the film’s intelligence in favour of dumbing down everything amid an endless barrage of smut and guts.
As such, a cast that also includes Alison Lohman, Amber Valletta and Keith David is left to flounder or ham it up – something that Hall, at least, seems to grasp with both hands.
But the overall result sadly makes for nauseating viewing that rapidly runs out of interest or merit. Anyone with even the slightest degree of intelligence is likely to feel severely hacked off afterwards!
Running time: 95mins
UK DVD and Blu-ray Release: January 18, 2010