out of Five
Running time: 95
Gamer has a strong premise, a decent cast and at least one moment of genius, but it isn't nearly as much fun as it ought to be, thanks to underwritten characters, disappointing action sequences and an overstuffed, frequently confusing plot.
What's it all about?
Directed by Crank directors Neveldine and Taylor, Gamer is set in the not-too-distant future and stars Gerard Butler as Kable, a death row criminal who's become a global superstar thanks to his role in the televised, ultra-violent video game Slayers, in which he's a human avatar, remotely controlled by 17-year-old gaming superstar Simon (Logan Lerman). Kable has to complete an impossible 30 missions in order to earn his freedom, but as he nears the target, he's approached by a mysterious stranger (Alison Lohman) who offers him the possibility of escape and a reunion with his wife (Amber Valletta) and child.
Meanwhile, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), the developer of the mind-control technology, has become the richest man on the planet, but he's secretly plotting world domination. However, a band of techno-savvy underground rebels (including Lohman, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Aaron Woo) set out to thwart his plans, believing that secrets locked within Kable's mind will help expose Castle's true motives.
Butler is fine for once (thankfully, he has minimal dialogue), while Hall steals the entire film and is the only one that seems to be having any fun, particularly during the film's only real highlight, a fight scene-slash-song-and-dance number that borders on genius.
The premise is intriguing (what with this, Surrogates and Avatar, avatar-themed movies are all the rage this year), but the messy script is frequently confusing and the chaotic, Crank-style video-game-come-to-life direction and rapid-fire editing are badly suited to a film with so many different characters. Valletta's subplot, for example (in which she's also an avatar, in a different game) goes nowhere and serves no purpose other than ineffective titillation.
Sadly, Gamer's problems don't end there; the action sequences are disappointing, there's a distinct lack of wit or invention in the direction and it's also impossible to care about the characters when they're so thinly sketched.
Despite its intriguing premise and a strong performance by Hall, Gamer is a disappointing, frequently confusing thriller that fails to engage on any level.