by Luke Y. Thompson | Fri., Sep. 4, 2009 11:07 AM
Review in a Hurry: The writing and directing duo officially known strictly as "Neveldine/Taylor," who gave us the Crank movies, deliver the same aesthetic to this hyperactive, cyber-take on The Running Man. Movie wimps need not apply.
The Bigger Picture: You need a super-short attention span, or at least the ability to maintain one for a couple hours, to truly appreciate Gamer. If that isn't possible, and all the Monster Energy drinks in the world don't help, ignore our letter grade, because you won't appreciate all the split-second nuttiness being practically direct-downloaded into your brain here.
This is the cinematic equivalent of eating a large box of Rainbow Nerds—too many combined flavors and colors to distinguish each individually, but an intense burst of flavor followed by a sugar buzz, and only later a vague notion that maybe what you just did wasn't good for you. Nonetheless, you'll buy another box in a few weeks or thereabouts.
Gerard Butler stars as "Kable" (real name: something a lot less badass-sounding), a death-row inmate who is one of many involved in a multiple-player online game with actual human avatars. The best gamers in the world control individual combatants with—what else?—nanotechnology, and Kable, controlled by a rich dork named Simon (Logan Lerman), is close to being the first to win 30 games, and thus gain his freedom.
But it's not that simple: Not only is the game rigged, with a new and un-controlled opponent (Terry Crews) added in at the last minute, but technology magnate Castle (a hammy, Southern-accented Michael C. Hall) has bigger plans afoot, intending to apply the mind-control technology on a much wider scale. So it's not enough for Simon and Kable to win the game, they also must break free of it and...save the world!
That they go about this in the most over-the-top manner possible should come as no surprise; this is the kind of movie that even Michael Bay might watch and subsequently complain about these darn kids and their crazy fast-paced flicks. What redeems the material is that it's clearly intended as comedy—the two filmmakers play a constant game of "can you top this" in a manner that suggests they dared one another to make each scene loonier (and more solidly R-rated) than the last.
There's even less substance here than in the Crank movies, if you can believe that, but odds are you're not buying a ticket in hopes of having deep thoughts. The movie does, however, offer insta-commentary on itself. Just as in the screen story where Gerard Butler is no more than a plaything here in the hands of puppet-masters, this flick really strings you along.
The 180 – A Second Opinion: Some out-of-left-field jokes about government health care seem a little inappropriate given how unserious the rest of the movie is trying to be.
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