Gamer (2009)

(In theatres, September 2009) It goes without saying that I’m about twice the age of Gamer’s intended audience of XBox-addicted teens who would think that a real-life FPS with remote-controlled convicts is a cool idea.  Nonetheless, even the most enthusiastic gamers will have no trouble recognizing a lousy film when they see one.  Light on SF ideas and just as disappointing in strict action-movie terms, Gamer pushes the lightning-quick editing craze as far as it goes until it shreds to tatters.  The irony, of course, is that gaming usually takes place within a long continuous shot that allows players to build a strong mental landscape of their surroundings: Chopping up an action scene in a flurry of split-second shots is the exact opposite of that kind of aesthetics.  But this is starting to sound like old-guy complaining, so let’s focus on Gamer’s more substantial failings: the cookie-cutter plot that feels like a re-thread of so many other “real game” movies (I don’t usually bring up Death Race in conversation, but there’s an exception to everything), the wasted thematic foundations of a film using gaming as a metaphor about control, the sheer weirdness of -say- a dance number confrontation between hero and villain… Gamer is a bit of a mess, really, but it doesn’t even have what it takes to become an enjoyable mess.  Aside from Gerard Butler’s credible presence as an action hero and the pedigree of writer/directors Neveldine/Taylor, there’s little, in fact, to distinguish Gamer from so many dull straight-to-video SF thrillers.  Why don’t you fire up the console instead?

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