Brandon's Word: Gamer, Or the War on Brains Everywhere
by Brandon Lee Tenney
September 4, 2009
Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor must really hate brain cells. This much is for sure. After the outrageous, but strangely satisfying romp that was Crank, and its follow up, the somehow even more outrageous but less satisfying Crank 2: High Voltage, they're back with their latest co-written, co-directed feature, Gamer, in theaters this weekend from Lionsgate. If before Neveldine and Taylor hated the idea of your, the audience's, brain, this time they're out to destroy the entire physical hunk of flesh floating between your ears. And that goes for both inside the film and inside the theater. Read on for Brandon's review!
Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall star in this "future-world where humans can control other humans in mass-scale, multiplayer gaming environments." There are two distinct game worlds that Gamer explores (well, explores may be a bit lofty for this film), both using the Nanex technology that replaces a host's brain cells with artificial, but identical, controllable receivers: the Sims-like simulator called Society, where humans can either pay to control other humans or be paid to be controlled (which, more often than not, means wearing crazy outfits and have sex with anything close by), and the first-person shooter game, Slayers. Slayers pits death-row inmates against one another in a fight to the death where each inmate is being controlled by, well, everyone who's playing Halo right now -- but in the future. If Gerard Butler can survive 30 matches, then he wins his freedom. But, Michael C. Hall, the mastermind behind both Society and Slayers (and bizarre southern accents), has other plans for his Nanex technology than just games.
That's about as much as I knew walking into the theater. And, honestly, I think I know even less now. It's as if Neveldine and Taylor have a personal vendetta against thought. Never lingering more than a split-second on any single filter-laden, digitized composition, it's like they hacked my brain against my will, forcing me to stare lifelessly at the screen. The story is simple enough; we've seen it in The Running Man and Death Race, to varying degrees of success, but at least I'm able to recall those movies as films and not as a massive migraine. If it isn't carnal, Freudian Id, then Neveldine and Taylor aren't interested in showing it. Let alone speaking of it. If their's is a vendetta against thought, then they're positively genocidal against dialog. Characters are given a maximum of six word-sentences to speak in scenes that last maybe thirty-five seconds. And I'll give ’em credit, Neveldine and Taylor did all they could to cut those scenes even shorter by slicing out breaths, pauses, and even the periods on the ends of sentences. It feels and sounds like the very dialog that would have been written by the very Halo-fanboys who will ultimately love this film.
You won't get away with thi--
MICHAEL C. HALL
You're mine, boy--
MICHAEL C. HALL
MICHAEL C. HALL
[unsettling lip quiver]
That's how I imagine the script read. If there was, in fact, a script. 'Cause if one thing's painfully apparent, it's that Neveldine and Taylor live for post-production, and it's just a race to start editing. They're stylish filmmakers. The prototypical evolution of this ADHD-America. Shaky, hand-held digi-cam with grimy, super-saturated color timing amidst quick-- quicker-- quickest-- editing, they do have vision. But their's is not a vision I hope to see any more of. At least I know I don't have epilepsy -- each showtime apparently also includes a free epilepsy screening that just so happens to coincide directly with the start of the film. So that's a plus.
If you are going to see this movie, I'll tell you this: Michael C. Hall is at least a lot of fun to watch. Imagine the live-action incarnation of Brain, of Pinky and the Brain, and you've got his character. His not-so-subtle characterizations, strange but captivating accent, and pompous attitude were welcome sips of refreshment among an overall stale, derivative cesspool. And as a gamer myself, it was interesting to watch Neveldine and Taylor attempt to provide as much authenticity to the multiplayer gaming arena as possible, but watching a dude teabag another dude while bullets are flying around his head is just not my idea of entertainment, even of the escapist variety.
I suppose I could say this was like watching someone else play a video game, but, it was much worse. It was like watching someone else watch someone play a video game while another person screams in your ears while still another person shines a laser-pointer directly into your retina. In other words: I did not enjoy this film. And a warning to you gluttons for punishment out there -- be prepared to dodge giant hammers hellbent on smashing you firmly on the nose. Watching Neveldine and Taylor attempt social commentary is like being taught sex education from a freshly-pubescent twelve-year-old boy. Or, you know, anyone who's totally pwning you right now on Last Resort. Same difference.
Achievement Unlocked: Completed Gamer -250 XP