Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gamer - Mini-review

I saw Gamer last night and it made me physically ill. The movie itself wasn't that bad, and there isn't Saving Private Ryan levels of gore, but the camera work made me nauseous. Nauseous for hours after so that I had to chew on ginger candy trying to get rid of it. I haven't felt that way since Blair Witch Project. Your senses are assaulted in this adrenaline rush of a movie, and at many points it's quick camera, shaky camera, swooping camera work that makes you feel like you are in one of those video games like Gears of War. Gamer is the title, after all. Maybe I'm just old. I love a good rollercoaster, but man, bring some dramamine if you don't play these types of video games.

/Film recently interviewed the director-writer team (the same ones who made the cult hit Crank) about their guerilla directing style:

Neveldine: It’s how we started, yeah. We love it. It’s like a battlefield to us. We both have a camera in our hands, and we like to be in the explosions. And when the guns are going off, we’re putting the camera right in the gunman’s face. It’s just stuff we can really play and have fun with. And we like to move fast because, by the way, your crew and your actors appreciate it when you know what you want as a director and can move fast and keep that high energy up for, you know, less than ten hours. We’re not working people 16 to 24 hours days, which a lot of people do.

Taylor: We get easily bored, too. As you can tell from watching the Crank movies, we’re pretty A.D.D. So if we weren’t actually holding the cameras and doing all of the stunt stff and action stuff ourselves then I don’t know what we would do on set. We’d go crazy. We have to always be moving, we have to always be shooting.

Uh, yeah. My stomach could tell that you always have to be moving guys. Gerard Butler even said the directors would be following him through explosions on roller blades holding their cameras. The action is always adrenaline pumping, and definitely R-rated for blood splattering, and bodies exploding. The gore wasn't what set off my queasiness.

This film was okay, but for someone of my age, it doesn't feel original. Prisoner trapped in a televised game show fighting for his life - Running Man, anyone? Or even Death Race with Jason Statham just last year. Maybe my standards are just too high but this summer we had both Star Trek and District 9, two exceptional Sci-Fi films. Yes, we had some spots of humor in Gamer like the beyond bizarre Sammy Davis Jr. "I've Got You Under My Skin" dance number with Michael C. Hall and company, but not the many satisfying moments we had in Star Trek. They're beating on the theme of the evils of video games and taking them to the extreme, but it left me kind of meh, not talking about it for hours like District 9's allegory to apartheid.

Gerard Butler did what was asked of him -- look and act like a bad ass action star, but the script didn't leave him much room to do much else, not unlike the controllers in the Slayers game. One very unique way to start a truck with an empty gas tank does not a "Yippekiyay, MF" moment make.

There was a parade of interesting actors in very minor roles. I spotted John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek!) as some sort of TV producer. Ludacris plays the leader of the Humanz resistance, and John Leguizamo had a small part as a fellow prisoner. Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes had a very small role as Rick Rape (a kind of Sims character) and had barely groped himself in his latex pants before Gerard's Kable snapped him in half like a twig. It made me wonder if the directors have some actor fans of Crank, and people asked to have a walk on part.

I enjoyed Kyra Sedgwick in her jaded TV host role, and Michael C. Hall knows how to play creepy very well. He made a good villain. Even the young kid who played Simon, the 17 year old who controls Kable (Butler) in the video game was good as an arrogant rich kid. (Trivia note - the Simon character wears a Crank t-shirt at one point.) Individual components of this film I liked, but the whole didn't add up to anything special for me.

I give this film 2 1/2 stars. As a Gerard Butler film, there was no doubt I'd be there opening weekend. I was surprised to see that the theater we saw it in was pretty empty. I went to a weeknight showing of Inglourious Basterds, and that was packed. What gives? Well, it's Labor Day weekend, great weather, and I know most of the high school aged kids in my town had a football game to be at on Friday night. They also didn't screen this movie for critic reviews, and even the fan boy blogs are mostly silent about Gamer. I don't know if this movie is going to do very good box office this weekend. It may do better on DVD, as Crank did.

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot more to this movie than just a video-game action flick for sure... also, Gerard Butler has established yet again that he is a badass no matter what movie he is in