Cross-posted from the PITCH BLACK website.
Cross-posted from the PITCH BLACK website.
Hollywood in general seems no longer capable of making a decent action movie. For some reason, filmmakers now adopt nervous camerawork that makes every scene look like it’s being shot during an earthquake and frenetic editing that seems carefully calculated to cause an epilepsy fit. Not only this adds nothing at all to the scenes, it actually makes it difficult (in some cases, impossible) to see what’s going on.
You’d think Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writers and directors of “Crank”, would avoid this style when handling a film that actually takes itself seriously. After all, “Crank” used its shitty, over-the-top visuals in a satirical manner which, along with a script full of inventive situations, resulted in an excellent comedy.
But instead, “Gamer” is, visually, even worse than “Crank” — and this time there is no comedy involved. It actually tries to use its remarkably rotten visual structure to enhance the action, not to extract humor from it. Not only that, the script is, like most of the cast, absolutely mediocre.
In the near future, society has basically bent over to a man named Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), a developer who has created two globally popular games, both of which feature the control of real human beings. “Society” is like a “Second Life” with real people: people like you or me who decide to volunteer to be controlled by an unknown player for most of the day. Actually, not like you or me, since I would never do this to myself and I hope you wouldn’t either. The second game is “Slayers”, where players control death row prisoners in deadly real-life multiplayer matches watched and enjoyed all over the world — something illustrated by a hilarious sequence which shows people cheering in several countries, from the United States to Iraq. No, seriously, Iraq. Apparently in the near future the death penalty is universally accepted, and as entertainment, no less.
Kable (Gerard Butler) is the greatest avatar in “Slayers”. Only a few more matches to go (out of thirty) until he regains his freedom, a goal not a single other avatar has achieved. In fact, it’s funny how everyone in the film refers to Kable as amazing and incredible, but rarely to the guy who plays him, Simon (Logan Lerman) — you’d think he’d deserve most of the credit. Or not really, since Kable says, in a certain moment, that there is a delay between the player’s commands and the avatar’s response to them, and that the avatar has to make up for that with his own ability — that delay is something known in the real-life gaming world as ping. Apparently, the internet in the future has devolved and people still need to worry about ping even when playing in the same country as other players. Shame to know that in the next years a multiplayer match from here in Brazil will be impossible.
Of course, all this creates a huge question mark as to how is it even conceivable to play “Slayers”. The answer never comes. We briefly see the player, Simon, moving his body and Kable doing the exact same movement simultaneously (yes, without any delay at all), but we never see what gestures the player has to do to get his avatar to walk, or shoot, or dodge grenades.
Okay, so we don’t actually see much of anything in “Gamer”, especially during the action scenes, which are so badly-edited that several angles are entirely superfluous (and every one seem to last 0.122243 second before cutting to another). You can barely understand what’s going on, also thanks to the horrendous cinematography that not only changes its color scheme and shadowing every two scenes, it cannot even frame two actors properly, cropping someone’s face off in what the three (three!!) editors likely considered an stylistic choice, rather than a moronic one.
Kable is not actually a bad man, having been unjustly sentenced. You’re shocked, I know. And he has a family, which is what keeps him going and makes him such an efficient avatar (what, the player? Fuck the player). And he and Ken Castle seem to have a Past History that makes Castle afraid of Kable (so it’s a mystery, why Castle doesn’t simply kill Kable on the several occasions he has a chance to during the film’s third act — oh, wait, Bond Villain Syndrome).
Rarely able to make its version of the future even slightly believable (one of the exceptions being the computers that are actually holographic rooms, an interesting and scary concept), the script by Neveldine and Taylor is also full of holes (how do the Humanz, a resistance movement, find Kable after his escape before Castle does, considering Castle has his omnipotent resources?) and ridiculous scenes (Kable’s use of alcohol to escape is just painful to watch). Completely unfriendly to people not familiar with the gaming world, the film is confusing even to those who are. Who are the bystanders during the multiplayer matches? Non-playable characters? What is their purpose there? Why do they behave with an A.I. code comparable to a game from 1995? Why is John Leguizamo destroying his career by showing up in this film in such a ridiculous role? And Sam Witwer? And Keith David? And Milo Ventimiglia — oh, further damage to his career is no longer possible, he was in “Heroes”.
The comic relief in “Gamer” is equally unsuccessful, only managing to be mildly funny on the sequences involving the hugely fat nerd who plays “Society”. Some times it is unintentionally funny, like the ad “Kable’s Last Stand”, which displays these three words in three different and very separated buildings, so it’s likely a bit difficult to read unless you’re on a helicopter.
As for the movie’s attempts at drama — when an “important” character is killed, the scene goes into slow motion and Butler, in a moment worthy of Marlon Brando, lowers his head in a touching display of sadness — so yeah, the film is even less successful in that area.
Gerard Butler, by the way, doesn’t strike me as a very good actor. Either that, or in the version of the script they gave him, his character was a hyperactive, grumpy piece of wood. Alison Lohman’s role is utterly forgettable, Logan Lerman is inexpressive, and so is Ludacris with the addition of being annoying. Keith Jardine was apparently cast to be utterly owned by Gerard Butler without managing to hurt him once, because that’s such a believable scenario, Jardine being a famous and renowned MMA fighter and all that. As Hackman, Terry Crews delivers the worst performance I’ve ever seen by him, although the blame is mostly Neveldine’s and Taylor’s for creating such a weak character, who in a certain moment of the film sings a song from Disney’s “Pinnochio”. I am not actually joking.
Michael C. Hall is the only major actor in the film whose career will probably suffer no scratches, since he manages to overcome the utter stupidity of his villain and be actually entertaining to watch. Hall has already proved his phenomenal talent in the TV series “Dexter” and I’m therefore not surprised that he manages to be interesting even while doing a completely out-of-place dance number.
I just hope he’ll choose better films from now on, since he’s way too brilliant to be in pieces of shit like this.