It would be easy to write off Gamer as a retrofitted, updated version of Running Man. The similarity being that our society will do anything for entertainment. Where Running Man focuses on our obsession with TV, Gamer has a take that is more voyeuristic, dealing with the destructive nature of our entertainment—not only those dying for our enjoyment, but on our mental and physical devolution as well.
Slayers is the latest hit from Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) who has perfected entertainment. In Slayers, teams of death row convicts are given a shot at redemption: survive 30 battles, walk home a free man. The emerging superstar of Slayers is Kable (Gerard Butler), who under the control of Simon (Logan Lerman) has managed to come out of 27 battles. Well it turns out that the circumstances that placed Kable into the game are shady, so he must find a way to escape and reunite his family, naturally.
Gamer is quite graphic. You’d expect the violence, but it’s the role of the Society game that really struck a nerve with me. Within Society many players choose to “pimp out” a young female volunteer in sexualized garb, then they proceed to parade them around town until they truly are pimped out. It’s the voyeuristic version of The Matrix. Instead of dodging bullets, the people wear emotionless faces as cavort. This perfected state of objectification is enough to make a feminist check into a psych ward. Not only is the treatment of the humans within the game sickening, but those controlling them have also been subject to the effects of the title by becoming the physical representation of the pigs they are. It isn’t a stretch to say that Society is inspired by today’s multiplayer online games, namely Second Life. Strangely, I felt that the Society aspect of Gamer was more appealing that Slayers, and fully compelling enough to warrant a film dedicated to the concept. Unfortunately, in Gamer it is only the back burner.
Having more than a working knowledge of video gaming, I was concerned about inaccuracy in the control dynamics. How is Kable going to run about a room when his player’s room is of different dimensions? Thankfully this is addressed through understated hand gestures. Still, I’m confused as to how the camera system functions. Were there really enough roaming remote cams to keep up with the slayers? Lastly, the MythBuster are going to be hounded over the new method of creating ethanol which Kable MacGyvers.
Coming from the directors of the Crank series (Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor), I’m surprised to find substance beyond the hectic editing. It’s just too bad there isn’t any time for character development. Fleshed out over two films or a trilogy, there could have really been something special to come from the concept of Gamer. It aims for the collegiate players with its mayhem, but has interesting subtext to offer other audiences. Gamer is an entertaining, though graphic, film that makes a statement while providing a much needed action fix. ***