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September 5, 2009

Gamer Review

— Posted by John Campea

Thanks for checking out our Gamer review. To see the video version of the Gamer review you can watch it at the bottom of this post.

Up to this point I have been a major fan of Neveldine and Taylor, the writers and directors of both “Crank” movies and producers on last years “Pathology”, so obviously I’ve been looking forward to seeing “Gamer” even though on the outside it’s looked like the weakest of their offerings to date. I mean come on… a death row inmate who is offered a chance at life if he wins a life and death publicly broadcast event. I’ve seen 3 of those movies in the last 4 years already.

But could Gamer rise above that? Thankfully yes… but just barely.


The synopsis for Gamer reads something like this: “Set in a future-world where humans can control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online gaming environments, a star player (Butler) from a game called “Slayers” looks to regain his independence while taking down the game’s mastermind (Hall).”


I know I generally do “The Good” first, but I feel like it’s appropriate to do the bad first here and I think you’ll see why.

I HATED the first 15 minutes of this movie for several reasons. It felt more cartoon than intense. More ridiculous than imagination and more desperation than vision. The way we are introduced to the story was told in a really contrived and boring manner. It basically treats the audience like we’re all 6 years old and couldn’t possibly understand anything beyond the simplest concepts. It holds our hands and explains what’s going on like we walk to the store with bike helmets on. It wasn’t just irritating, it made me lose interest in the film almost immediately.

I have to mention this. Neveldine and Taylor are amazing at coming up with innovative ways of pulling together terrific shots and ways to get those shots. However, I’ve found with Crank 2, and now with Gamer they’ve fallen more and more into the horrible trap of THINKING that shaking the camera like it’s being operated by monkey suffering seizures makes the film “intense”. Somewhere along the line someone lied to them and told them that doing 5 cuts per second and shaking the camera like it’s being dangled from a Mr. Slinky makes movies intense. IT… DOES… NOT. What it does is ruins great shots and great action scenes because not only can I not really appreciate and tell what’s going on up on the screen… IT MAKES ME NOT CARE. They come up with AMAZING scenes and sequences… only to ruin them by not letting us (the audience) really watch them. it’s frustrating as hell.

WHY THE FUCK IS LUDACRIS IN THIS MOVIE?!?! Damn, I wanted to gouge my ears every single time he spoke on screen. I can’t decide if the character was just bad, or (as I suspect) if the acting was really just that bad.

I know it’s not the movie, but I really do have to take a moment to talk about the trailer. It’s the worst, and it turns out completely deceiving (I’ll get to that in a moment). I can honestly say I never ONCE heard anyone say they liked the Gamer trailers. Of the roughly 20 times I saw it play in theaters, not once did I hear any buzz in the crowd after it played… quite the opposite. Such a shame, because the movie is actually much better than the trailers let on.


After we get through the painful opening 15 minutes (which caused me to lose all hope in the rest of the movie), the film changes gears and… well… becomes very watchable.

The story of the film is much better than one might think. Now here’s the thing… the ass awful trailers made you think that the STORY of the movie was about “a death row inmate who is offered a chance at life if he wins a life and death publicly broadcast event” much like Death Race of The Condemned. But unlike those movies, this is just a device in the story… not the story itself. As a matter of fact, (and this is a little bit of a spoiler) the movie doesn’t stay in prison very long and once Butler gets out, the real story of the movie unfolds. And guess what, that story is pretty good. Which all leads me once again to ask why the trailers thought it necessary to make us think the movie was about something else in the first place?

I’m enjoying Gerard Bulter more and more. You can laugh at me all you want, but I actually thought he was damn funny in “The Ugly Truth” too. But Gamer reminds us that his true place is as an action star. Flat out, I thought Bulter was great in this film.

There are honestly some very good laughs in the movie (once again, once you get past the first 15 minutes). For example, Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia has a small role in the film that just had me howling every minute he was on the screen. In typical Neveldine/Taylor fashion, the film weaves humor into their intensity like a wink to the audience acknowledging just how unreal everything in the movie is… and it works.

Michael C. Hall is dynamite in the film… and I’m shocked to say that because I thought he looked lame in the trailers, and thought even worse things for the first part of the movie. But he really makes this character like a good graphic novel antagonist. Subtle, and some not so subtle quirks and manerisms he uses got me to actually LIKE his character.

Have to mention the Michael C. Hall dance number. It’s awesome. I knew the scene was in the movie, and I was dreading it like crazy, but once it started, I ate it up… it was great.

Is it possible for Terry Crews to NOT be entertaining? I mean, even if he tried? I don’t think it’s possible.


If you can manage to not get up and walk out during the first 15 or so minutes of Gamer, I think you’ll end up enjoying yourself… I did. The film could have been about 3x better had they knocked off the terrible shaky camera and hyper aggressive quick cut editing, but in the end Gamer ends up being a fun, exciting, at times funny and surprisingly well told story. In the words of our friends over at JoBlo.Com:

The best thing about GAMER is that Neveldine/ Taylor definitely had the pacing down pat as it runs a lean ninety minutes, and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. I have to say, I kind of dig their whole trash/ excess aesthetic, and I image if you watch this between CRANK & CRANK 2, you could see their evolution (or de-evolution) to the trashterpiece insanity of CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (this was shot BEFORE, and sat on the shelf for awhile). If you like this type of thing (and obviously, there are people that do, as the film went over really well as the screening I attended- although it had a few walkouts) you’ll probably get a kick out of it, although you’ll be disappointed if you walk in expecting a straight-forward action flick. Still, I dug it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a trashy adrenaline rush.

I concur. When all is said and done, this is fun movie that manages to shine despite its weaknesses. Overall I give Gamer a 6.5 out of 10.

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  • Last Chapter Studios

    Check out my “Gamer” Fan Film here:

  • darock_maine

    The movie Gamer follows a convict’s struggle to free himself from the control of a video games technology. The player of the game, a young boy from outside the system, is specifically connected to a gamer he controls, the convict. The realistic features of the movie’s video game are what attracts players to participate, however they do not grasp the concept of death that playing may cause.
    In response to Gamer’s dramatic plot of player and gamer interactions, it was clear that a societies obsession with making games more realistic could turn into a spiraling downfall. Even though Gamer was an unrealistic story line, it displayed how our modern programs at a smaller scale are constantly working on creating a more realistic and interactive game for future costumers. Ideally, the success and popularity of a game depends entirely on how realistic its features are. The gamer world is based on new up and coming programs that will ultimately allow complete control, essentially allowing players to get lost in the game. The drive for more interaction and gamer accessories has reached a global consumption base. Gamers now communicate with other players across countries while participating on the same program levels. The skills for these programs have reached extraordinary highs, and gaming competitions have become nationally popular. Technology is an ongoing exploration of new ideas and desires. Gamer revealed how gaming interactions capture and warp a world’s reality.
    It was a great movie!!

  • Richard Virchow

    Gamer is just a warmed up leftover, rehash of the 1982 Disney film “TRON” with a new wardrobe and guns instead of frisbees.

    • Rodney

      Richard, you might want to watch Tron again… or at least WATCH Gamer… there is no comparison between the two. Not at all.

  • mike

    I just don’t get the fact that he decides to stay with his wife knowing that she’s been banging other guys in the sims. He should have just kept going for his daughter & try his luck with another one… It seems to me that it’s a pretty big deal that his wife was a hotty controlled in the sims for the worst situations.

  • Kyle retter

    Good review. The first 15 was just what I expected, very typical. I didnt think the story was really that strong, unless of course you have never seen any of the movies Gamer took from. The dance sequence was killer. Check out too!

  • Lilly

    John, I have agreed with about 90% of your reviews since TMB started up, but this isn’t one of those times. :-)

    I didn’t mind Ludacris. I didn’t. I normally hate rappers turned actors, but in this genre, he worked on a certain level.

    The dance and soundtrack were great. Loved them both. But, then again, I’m a Mason fan. Each were used as great plot devices to drive the lack of story forward to points where the actors could… well, I don’t know what. They really didn’t do much in this movie. It seems to have lacked an agenda for some strange reason.

    What I didn’t like was the fact that this movie - a movie clearly meant to be as vacuous as a video game is as you play it at home - didn’t go the extra bit and develop characters we could find something to like or care about. The characters in this movie were just as one or two dimensional as they would be in a real video game. I was hoping for a bit more. I was disappointed. That’s my fault. I expected too much I guess. :-)

    The action was fairly good, not intense enough to warrant the feeling that the title character was fighting for his life in the games, but good nonetheless. Also, the flashbacks were a bit distracting. Having said that, Joe maintains the best part of this movie is the chick who lost her head. *snort*

    The abrupt ending, the lack of emotion from the minions, the lackluster of care with the characters - all of it adds up to a hollow flick for me.

    The upsides to this one: Kira Sedgwick finally gets a meaty role as the ballzy broad, Gerald Butler as an action hero getting to flex his muscles and the use of the main competition in the game (sorry, forget his name).

    I love Michael C. Hall. He’s a gifted, brilliant, inventive actor, but some of his scenes (the last few especially) were grating. Dunno why, but they just were. I adore him as an actor. I really, really do, and he was the main reason I wanted to see this movie. Perhaps it was the lack of substance in the script that made me not like his portrayal?

    Anyway, Joe and I walked out of the flick not really caring much about it. We were almost indifferent to it. And we thanks the dogs we used some Air Miles points to get the tickets because we would have hated to plunk down money for this obvious video rental wannabe.

    Overall, Gamer isn’t the worst movie of the year - or even ever - but nor is it worthy of accolades upon accolades.

  • Price

    I would have to agree with John’s review; Gamer is a solid movie with some moments that will make you cringe. As a gamer, I would have to disagree with his observation of the first 15 min. I though that the filming was spot on for how things would feel if games like Halo, Rainbow 6, or Medal of Honor were actually real. Above all else though, I think that this movie was a very sharp criticism of our societies dependence on technology for everything from interaction to stimulation. It honestly felt like I was watching the internet in live action, and some of it was REALLY disturbing. Milo’s character (for example) came off as more of a sexual predator lurking around chat rooms than a humorous fixture meant to entertain. Either way, I really enjoyed the film.

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