DEADLY GAME SHOWS: Gamer (2009)

From the first scene in this film, a journey across the world with propaganda messages across familiar landmarks and a gun battle that feels like a First Person Shooter, Gamer feels way more dated than a movie that came out nine years ago.

Gamer is a world of what the late 90’s and early 2000’s saw as our future: blips, ultraviolence, video games, nu-metal and reality TV. I hate to say that for the most part, it’s gotten a lot of it correct.

In 2034, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, Dexter) invents self-replicating technology that replaces brain tissue, allowing people to control one another and see through their eyes. Called Nanex, Castle uses this technology to create Society, a virtual life game ala Second Life (remember that?). His next idea is Slayers, a game that allows people to control prisoners on death row as they battle in a gladiator arena. Any Slayer that survives the game thirty times gets their freedom. But that’s never happened.

John “Kable” Tillman (Gerard Butler, 300) is the most popular Slayer there is. He’s made the record for survival — 27 matches — all controlled by Simon (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), a rich kid and superstar gamer.

Meanwhile, Humanz (they are from the streets, as the z will tell you), an anti-Slayers organization, hacks the Gina Parker Smith (Kyra Sedgwick, SinglesHearts and Souls) Show when Castle makes an appearance. Their voice comes from Brother, played by Ludacris. Remember when I told you this movie was firmly of its time?

Castle is more concerned with the fact that Kable might win Slayers, so he brings in a new player, Hackman (Terry Crews, The Expendables), a psychotic inmate who is not controlled by a player and who suffers no lag time.

There’s also a guy named Freek (John Leguizamo, Spawn) who befriends Kable. And oh yeah, Kable’s wife Nika (Amber Valetta, What Lies Beneath) is a Society avatar who is rich from being part of the game but can’t get their daughter, Delia, back.

Holy shit, the Society game. It’s every late 1990’s teenage daydream on crack and filtered through pure scum and not in a good, fun Eurohorror way, either. There are characters like Vaginablender and mostly players either have sex or rollerblade or rollerblade while having sex.

There’s a horrible scene here where Simon talks to his female fans, including Stikkimuffin, his sister SISSYPUSS, a girl with a tongue that’s been pierced 25 times or so and two British twins named Kumdumpstaz. It looks like it was filmed inside a bottle of Mountain Dew and then someone jacked off all over it.

Meanwhile, the Humanz contact Kable and Simon, warning them that there’s no escape. Instead, they modify Kable to control himself again. Simon is labeled a cheater, has all of his assets frozen and the FBI investigates him (Keith David shows up!).

Kable heads to the Humanz’ HQ, but he refuses to be part of the fight. Instead, he finds and rescues his wife before meeting up with the talk show host — who is really helping the Humanz. Once his nanites are deactivated, Kable remembers that he was tested on while in the military and Castle mentally controlled him, forcing him to kill his best friend.

Of course, the main bad guy in the movie was the person who stole Kastle’s daughter.

Of course, he goes to get her back.

Of course, Castle has already killed all of the Humanz.

Castle reveals that he has a brain that is 90% nanites and thanks to an airborne virus, he’ll soon control the whole country. Hackman then attacks, but Kable kills him quickly. But Castle stops our hero, as his nanites have been reactivated.

But wait! Gina and Trace (Alison Lohman, Drag Me to Hell) have survived and hack their way in. They reveal the secrets of Castle to the world and allow Simon to have control of Kable all over again.

Just in time — Castle was trying to get Kable to kill his own daughter, but Simon and Castle are now battling for control. Finally, Tillman tells Castle to imagine being stabbed, which allows him to break his control and kill the final boss. Then, he deactivates both Slayers and Society.

Finally, the Tillman family walks down a country road when the words “Game Over” appear. I’d ask if this was all a dream, but I’m not certain this movie is ready to make a narrative jump like that.

Gamer comes from the team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who were also responsible for CrankCrank: High VoltageGhost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and The Vatican Tapes. Whereas the Crank films feel like gleeful bursts of anarchy, this is a movie made by a mainstream studio that seeks to bite the hand that feeds. And unlike a film like They Live that escapes from the big budget process, this film takes so much glee in showing us the Slayers and Society worlds that you tend to wonder which side of the coin they are falling upon.

Also — Michael C. Hall appears to be in a completely different movie than everyone else. It’s like he wanted to sing and dance through an entire scene, so they said, “Hey, why not?”

Oh man — I also forgot that there’s a scene where Kable fills up a car by drinking gasoline, then puking and pissing into a gas tank. If this makes you want to watch this film, have at it!

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