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'Gamer' is this generation's 'Freejack'

Category: Gamer Reviews
Article Date: September 4, 2009 | Publication: San Francisco Chronicle | Author: Peter Hartlaub
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Posted by: admin

The problem with the realistic visions of the future coming out of Hollywood is that they're all such a downer. Even when the plot involves giant insect-like aliens and a spaceship hovering over South Africa, the gritty details tend to hit close to home.

"Gamer" is a throwback to "The Running Man" school of filmmaking, when dystopian views of tomorrow were not created as a cautionary tale about global warming, but as a means to blow stuff up. This action movie, which didn't screen for critics, doesn't even belong in the same discussion with "District 9" or "Children of Men." It's a vehicle for sex, violence and over-the-top acting. This generation finally has its "Freejack."

Gerard Butler plays Kable, and let's hope he wasn't paid by the word. He starts the movie in some kind of real-life video game, where skinny teens control real-life death row prisoners in a reality show death match. No one in the world seems to have jobs - they spend every waking hour playing games that combine The Sims and prostitution. Meanwhile, an entrepreneur named Tom Castle (Michael C. Hall, who seems to be channeling Joe Francis from "Girls Gone Wild" fame) has entertained humanity to the point of near-enslavement.

If you're looking for subtlety, try somewhere else. This week's animated apocalypse film "9" seems a lot more grounded in reality, and its protagonists are made out of burlap bags and watch parts. You could write the rest of "Gamer" yourself, with its bold escapes, underground freedom fighters, double crosses, triple crosses and bizarre showdowns. It's everything you would expect - good and bad - from the directors who made "Crank: High Voltage."

This is a movie best enjoyed the less you think about it. In one sequence (a small spoiler ahead), Butler's character breaks out of prison in part by downing a fifth of Vodka, and then vomiting and urinating in a car with an empty tank. Granted, this is the near future. But even with the bailout, it's doubtful that anyone in Detroit is near completion of a puke-powered car.

That being said, the scene is cool. So are a lot of other parts of "Gamer," which uses too many quick-cut edits during the fight sequences, but piles on enough action that you kind of get used to it. By the time the big finish arrives, directors Mark Neveldine and Mark Taylor don't even seem to be attempting to make sense. "Gamer" is almost instantly forgettable, but still kind of fun.

-- Advisory: This film contains sex, nudity, strong language, brutal violence and alternative fuel theories that definitely won't work at home.


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