Saturday, September 5, 2009

Killtacular the Movie: Gamer reviewed

"The last time Gerard Butler kicked this much ass was 300 years ago!"

That's the tagline being used in TV spots to promote the action film du jour Gamer, which only confirms my long-held theory: Gerard Butler is a Highlander. Clearly this promotional statement is meant to remind us of Butler's victory over the French at the Battle of Malpaquet in September 1709. I mean, this is obviously not an attempt to remind us that this was the guy who so famously yelled "This! Is! SPARTA!" before kicking a Persian into a strangely conspicuous bottomless pit, right? The posters for this movie should feature the phrase "The guy who played Leonidas in 300 two years ago is totally in this movie!" Either that or "This fall, Gerard Butler will discover the ugly truth about real-life first person shooters. P.S. I love you, RockNRolla."

I felt obligated to see this movie for a number of reasons. 1) Charge Shot!!! had its origins as a blog dedicated to the sacred art of video gaming, and I had a short-lived career as a student of the video-game to film adaptation, therefore a movie about video games IN THE FUTURE sure would be neat to do a review of for this site. 2) The film is from the guys who brought us Crank and its sequel Crank 2: Lubricated Shotgun Sodomy, two of the more absurdly awesome action movies of the middle-to-late aughts. And 3) I think Gerard Butler is a pretty sweet dude and paying to watch him murder people sounds like a pretty good way to spend 90 minutes at the end of summer.

Fun fact: I tweeted about going to see this movie and was instantly contacted by a middle-aged woman whose Twitter background is a big picture of Butler and who identifies herself as a "Gerard Butler gal". Blerg.

In case you haven't seen a movie or watched TV in the past 6 months, Gamer is the story of Kable (Butler) a death row inmate and former soldier who participates in the futuristic video game Slayers. The gimmick behind Slayers is that instead of using polygonal avatars, players are given full control of a hardened criminal and get to use him to act of FPS fantasies in the flesh. If Kable (which isn't his real name, it's a gamertag for lack of a better word, which makes me wish this film's protagonist was named "SN1Per AsASS1n666" or something like that) can survive 30 games, he'll be set free. As our story begins, Kable is 3 deathmatches away from being reunited with his wife and daughter, but the evil corporate mastermind (Michael C. Hall, the guy who voiced Dexter on Dexter's Laboratory, I've been told) behind the game has other plans...evil plans! Mwuhahahahaha!

The movie is pretty simple and for all intents and purposes functions as any other high-concept action gorefest. The idea of a shooter game utilizing actual humans is a pretty interesting idea, and once you insert a proven action star and a lot of blood and exploding heads it's hard to go wrong. Butler is up to the task of killing and going through the late period Harrison Ford "My wife! My daughter!" motions and Michael C. Hall is pretty good Steve Jobs-esque villain. Ludacris even pops up as the Kuato of this particular vision of the future and all the other bit players (Kyra Sedgwick! Alison Lohman! John Leguizombie! Q!) do their jobs with gusto. The commentary on video game violence is pretty minimal if any, most of the movie's message is confined to the dangers of corporate monopolies and their ability to replace your brain with nanobots(!). The writer-director duo of Nevaldine/Taylor speaks the language of the um, gamer and knows the world they're portraying. The video games consoles of the future look like an updated Xbox Live and there's even a "teabagging" joke in the film's early stages. This is, to my knowledge anyway, the first time I have ever seen the popular/annoying practice of crouching over recently vanquished foe's face depicted by actual human beings. I would be curious as to whether the Defense Department has ever inquired into the frequency of teabagging in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's some neat segments about Slayers' predecessor/sister program Society. Society is basically the same concept as Slayers but with a life sim type game such as Second Life or the Sims as opposed to a Unreal/Quake-esque shooter.. In this particular program "actors" hire themselves out to be controlled by a user for a certain amount of time so that the player might live through them for a set amount of time. Kable's wife (Amber Valleta) happens to be one of these "actors" and her user happens to be a 450-pound pig-man who likes to have kinky sex with latex-clad guys with names like "Rick Rape" (I did not make that up). Kable of course has to rescue her. The Society segments could easily have their own movie dedicated to them and serve as a neat little view on the other possible uses of video games with real people and why they're a just plain bad idea.

All in all, Gamer is a competent and satisfying end of summer action shoot-em-up. There's enough brainy stuff to make you feel like you didn't waste your time and money and enough explosions, carnage, and nudity to sate your id's need for those sort of things. It doesn't add up to much but it's fun and knows its limits. I'd recommend Gamer to any fellow connoisseurs of the crappy action film genre and any real life gamers looking for their subculture up on the silver screen.

Verdict: 1 and 1/2 Congos