Saturday, September 5, 2009
I love Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Let me get that off my chest. Their first two films, Crank and it's subsequent sequel, are two of the most interesting and truly solid action films of this modern day. Sure, they are complete escapist, video game style entertainment, but take that mindless premise, and give it the complete balls out, guerrilla style film making, and a star making performance from Jason Statham, you get a truly great, if a bit obnoxious, action film.
However, when it came to the marketing of their newest film, Gamer, I was mildly enthused. Could it have been Gerard Butler? Yes, it very well could have. Could it have been the rest of this really weirdly cast film? Minus Michael C. Hall, yes, very well could have. Or could it have been because of the fact that set visits and reports from them were unkind, and that the film had not screened for ANY critics, including sites like FirstShowing, CHUD, /Film, or any of the major newspapers. I think that last one fits the bill. However, after having seen this film, I can understand why no one was allowed to see this film.
Gamer is a high-concept, balls out, action thriller set in a near future when gaming and entertainment have evolved into a terrifying new hybrid. Humans control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online games: people play people...for keeps. Mind-control technology is widespread, and at the heart of the controversial games is its creator, reclusive billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). His latest brainchild, the first-person shooter game "Slayers," allows millions to act out their most savage fantasies online in front of a global audience, using real prisoners as avatars with whom they fight to the death.
First things first, this film is not a bad piece of cinema. The films major saving grace comes from the two auteurs helming the project. They put the camera right in the middle of the action, and by using the new RED One camera, this brings out all of the details not only in a persons face and body, but in the world around them as well. It's a gorgeous film, in all of it's brutality, because while it's a dirty, dirty effort, the film maintains this sense of polish that is an interesting dichotamy.
Also, another interesting thing, and a concept that the two film makers have patented, is the gurellia style film making that they use. They use anything and everything in their power to get the perfect shot. Weither it be riding behind a car on a skateboard or rollerblading next to a semi, these two have no fear, and along with the very EXTREME and shocking set pieces, they have crafted one of the better looking action films you will see this year.
However, it's the rest of the film that truly falls apart, particularly the acting.
The lead of the film, Gerard Butler, still has yet to prove to me that he is more than just a 20-pack. Sure, the guy may be cut like an emo kids wrist, but abs do not a good actor make. Making his name in the god-awful 300, he is equally as bad in this film, as not only does he not carry any sort of emotional wait, the dialogue that he spouts off does him no favors. Equally as bad is his wife, played by Amber Valletta, and while she is definitely not sore on the eyes, the two as a couple never truly worked. They are like the really cute couple in high school who just have to be together for kicks and giggles. They have less than no chemistry, and when you are supposed to feel for these two, especially near the emotional climax of the film, nothing, and I mean nothing is felt. I'm not even going to mention Ludacris, as there is nothing to mention. The name should cause the right head shaking reaction from the outset.
The story is also horribly cliche. You have the billionaire who is trying to control the minds of every person and one death row inmate trying to stop him. Through a spot of Death Race and a pinch of Crank, and you have this really mixed bag of style kicking substance in it's balls. The film has no overarching thing for any person to really chew on, and while neither do Crank or Crank 2, they at least have compelling performances and a really insane and fun story.
The final thing the Crank films do that this film didn't, was keep itself fun. Crank/Crank 2 are mindless action films, but at least the films and film makers realize that this is not a problem, if given the right style. They throw in some of the most insane and truly fun storylines in to the series, and have subsequently made two stunning action films. However, Gamer is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Gamer treats the audience like the bad dog who just crapped on the floor. Neveldine/Taylor takes the audience nose, and sticks it right in the middle of the complete degradation and shit that they are putting the characters through. Nothing is sacred to these two, and instead of just being fun and intense, Gamer is dark, uninteresting, and just plain torturous. Sure, a few of the set pieces are well made, as many of the scenes in this film are, but it's the filler that burns this film down like building covered in gasoline.
All in all, the film isn't the worst ever, but it's just not nearly up to Neveldine/Taylor's bar. Better luck next time.
GAMER - 3/10
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