Review: Gamer (2009)

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Gamer (2009)

Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor | 95 minutes | thriller, science fiction | Actors: Gerard Butler, John Leguizamo, Alison Lohman, Michael C. Hall, Milo Ventimiglia, Logan Lerman, Aaron Yoo, Kyra Sedgwick, Keith David, Terry Crews, Amber Valletta, Zoe Bell, Johnny Whitworth, Sam Witwer, Efren Ramirez, Ludacris

The American action film ‘Gamer’ is set in a future world from which all light and cheerfulness have disappeared. It is a decor that we know from genre contemporaries ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Babylon AD’. Humanity has become an oversexed and violent mob, where everyone tries to take advantage of everyone. A film in this setting offers plenty of opportunities for social reflection, suspense and exciting action. ‘Gamer’ fails on all those fronts.

You could perhaps expect that this action film has little interesting to say from the directors on duty (‘Crank’). The bad thing is that ‘Gamer’ does have pretensions. The story, about people of flesh and blood used as killers in a high-tech computer game, offers every opportunity to philosophize about things like free will, murder on command and the death penalty. Unfortunately, ‘Gamer’ doesn’t get any further than some superficial catchphrases about nanoparticles and virtual entertainment. The fact that the story is full of plot holes and improbabilities does not help either.

All that would be less bad if we could at least empathize with the characters. That doesn’t work either. The characters range from murderous bastards to sadistic chunks of inbreeding. Even main character Kable kills on a whim, without any conscientious objection. The viewer’s sympathy should go to the Humanz, a kind of resistance fighters who want to save the world, but who look more like a group of raised alternative people looking for a fun hobby.

We would immediately forget all these objections, if this action movie had some tasty action to offer. The makers fail in this too. Although the film has quite a bit to offer visually, the action has too little variety. ‘Gamer’ is a continuous parade of bullet-riddled heads, explosions, flaming mopeds and breaking bones, preferably from the neck. Due to the nervous camera work, the lightning-fast editing and visual play, the action is hardly to follow, so that the excitement completely passes you by.

This makes ‘Gamer’ no more than a hyper-nervous video clip that spews out blood, noise and bad music. For a film of one and a half hours that is too scanty. Mindless entertainment is fine, mindless boredom is not.

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