“Gamer”: A mindless and simply unwatchable thriller

Mickey Caufield

Studios release half-a-dozen mindless action movies boasting unoriginal premises, cardboard cut-out characters, and plots that serve only to string one ridiculous special effects sequence to the next every year; despite this, they can be good, explosive fun. “Gamer,” however, featuring jarring cinematography and a script that is not simply generic but nonsensical, will disappoint even those expecting the most mindless thriller.

In “Gamer,” a video game exists where players use mind control technology to directly control death row inmates in a death-match-style shoot-out; convicts are released if they can survive 30 rounds. It is also broadcast on TV, because I guess in the future people want to watch other people play video games.

The best player/inmate team is Simon (Logan Lerman) and the falsely-convicted Kable (Gerard Butler), who are on their 26th match as the film begins. Kable wants to win to be reunited with his wife and daughter, but since he knows the sinister secrets behind the technology, the creator of the game, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), doesn’t plan on allowing his survival.

He discovers that his wife (Amber Valetta) works in Ken Castle’s other game, a sex simulation, where she is controlled by an obese man-child who is only ever shown in the nude. With the help of HUMANZ, Kable frees his wife and finds out his daughter is being held by Ken Castle.

The movie ends, predictably, with more fighting, as well as a slew of completely inexplicable happenings: the scene is briefly changed to the moon, and then a basketball stadium; the parameters of the technology set up in the film so far are thrown by the wayside; it wasn’t even completely clear to me who exactly had died by the end of the film.

Besides the obvious plot holes and unexplained events (including a subplot involving a reporter played by Kyra Sedgewick that was so inconsequential to the plot that I didn’t have to mention it to summarize the movie), “Gamer” is simply horribly executed. It is an objectively bad movie; beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to art, but just like some people like Key lime pie and some people like French silk, we can all agree poop pie is bad. “Gamer” is poop pie.

The concept itself and aesthetic in which it is delivered are both unoriginal and unimpressive; is anyone really excited by seeing advanced computers in movies anymore? The camerawork is shaky and difficult to follow, but not in an impressive or stylized way. I actually struggled to tell what was going on in the action sequences.

Whether or not it is well acted is largely impossible to tell––the dialogue is too strange and bad to be delivered well. The talent of Michael C. Hall is wasted on this two-dimensional villain, and Gerard Butler has (perhaps appropriately, but not entertainingly) all the range of a video game character.

“Gamer” has one or two redeeming moments, including Castle’s musical number (he sings and dances to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” during a fight scene, a la Alex DeLarge of “A Clockwork Orange” fame), but they are not worth the price of admission. If you like good movies where people get shot, go see the summer’s “Inglourious Basterds”  or “District 9.” And even if you like dumb movies where people get shot, I still don’t recommend “Gamer”; it’s not simply dumb, it’s unwatchable.