Three minutes. That’s all it took. Three minutes into this movie and I knew I HATED this fucker.
Here’s why: it's loud, violent, spastic and stupid. Writer/directors Neveldine/Taylor are the Anti-Christs of Cinema (Michael Bay, you are off the hook, sir). Their entire movie output - Crank, Crank 2: High Voltage and now Gamer - are all loud, violent, spastic, stupid affairs. They specialize in viewer rape.
Neveldine/Taylor came out of music videos and they literally are now making 90 to 100 minute long music videos. The problem is you can take 3 ½ minutes of the usual music video nonsense of swooping, circling, diving, shaky camerawork and split-second editing (labeled appropriately enough by Roger Ebert as “baffling editing”) with no story, but 100 minutes is a fucking eternity. Especially when that “style” is coupled to their usual weak-ass writing, in this case a lazy rip-off of The Running Man and Death Race 2000, but without the flair and out-sized characters of the former and the satire and ingenuity of the latter. All funneled through a video game sensibility.
Gerard Butler is a convicted murderer and if he can make it through 30 episodes of the world’s most popular televised video game/reality show, Slayers, he wins his freedom. He and the other “contestants” are controlled by players unseen by them, so while it may seem like a very realistic video game to the players, the bullets are very real to Butler and the other game participants.
There is one decent idea buried under all the blood, gore and bullet cartridges. A new technology involving nanites, nanex, enables one person to literally control another. People pay to either control someone, or be controlled by someone. The latter is considered "acting." But if Butler's controller, Simon, is such a bad-ass gamer, how can Butler survive the game if he's not being controlled? There's no real distinction in personality or abilities between Butler as Tillman (his real name) and as Kable (his game avatar handle). If there's no distinction, then what's the point of rooting for him? This is in contrast to Butler's wife, Angie (Amber Valletta) who gets work as an actress in the second most popular video game, Society (sort of a real-life version of Second Life). She basically is a prostitute who is put through the motions by gamers, in particular a disgusting fat dude who makes Jabba the Hutt seem the model of cleanliness. What is the movie saying when a vile fat man controls a beautiful woman and makes her have sex with other men and experiences it himself? It really doesn't say anything, because it's too caught up in its silly Running Man game. Also that idea of a man experiencing what a woman feels was touched on by James Cameron in his screenplay for Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days. (Every movie Neveldine/Taylor rips off is a much better movie than Gamer.)
Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame plays the unscrupulous inventor of nanexes, a man named Castle. Hall is outstanding in this movie, much better than the crap around him. He even has a trippy song and dance number to a Sammy Davis Jr. song that is quite captivating. But soon enough we’re back to the bone crunching.
Neveldine/Taylor do their usual "anything goes" film-making approach. In other words looking cool takes precedence over making sense. The gamers don't see through the eyes of the players but always see them in front of them, as if the players are being filmed. The image often develops an electronic glitch for a second, even though NO CAMERAS are following the players. So only the movie viewer is seeing this glitch. AND WHY THE FUCK IS THAT? It doesn't serve to immerse me in the game. It's just an annoying "cool thing" that makes me think they watched Robocop (another strong influence/rip-off) the night before shooting.
There is absolutely no point to the game of Slayers, except to stay alive. The game terrain is uninvolving and unspectacular (much of it takes place in an industrial warehouse-type setting). They throw everything into the mix: an SUV set on fire, a helicopter, a motocross racer (complete with dirt mounds). None of this makes any sense and it isn't interesting in the least. James Cameron shot his future Los Angeles scenes at an abandoned steel mill, which is a much more visually interesting location than a trumped up warehouse. Butler has a pistol and a machine gun in the game and that's it. Shouldn't you be able to get more and better weapons as the game goes along? Stupid movies have a lot in common with organized religion: they simply expect you to swallow what's there and to NOT ask questions.
The action is so goddamn frenetic, with the editor cutting away so quickly and so often you never get a sense of where you are, or what is happening. That's called lazy film-making. Just imagine if Steven Spielberg had shot the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan this way. If he had done so it would have watered down the scene so much that it would have lost its impact. Spielberg was able to convey the frenzy and terror of warfare without the bullshit camerawork and editing that is de rigueur now.
Neveldine/Taylor make B-movies. There’s nothing wrong with B-movies (Roger Corman’s entire career anyone?), but they seem to want to be Albert Pyun: The Next Generation, instead of doing anything truly noteworthy (see Neill Blomkamp’s revolutionary District 9 to see how you make an outstanding lower budgeted movie - it's about ideas, boys, and not just the roller blades).
The DVD Extras feature extensive interviews with the two of them. They seem like really nice guys. I love that one of them often shoots with a handheld camera while he’s on roller blades. That's fun creative thinking.
But I never want to see another fucking movie from these guys ever again.