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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gamer

Gamer is a movie that makes me appreciate my digestive system. It does, because while sitting in the theater watching this ghastly mess I realized I have had more satisfaction from a bowel movement than from wasting 95 minutes trying to figure out why anyone allowed co-directors and writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor ( Crank: High Voltage) to make this disaster in the first place.

Ironically, the movie itself seems like a cloudy knock-off of their former leading man Jason Straham’s Death Race from last year. Okay, so Death Race didn’t have the whole holographic angle that Gamer does, but Death Race pretty much does the same thing Gamer tries to do, only it does it with a more coherent script and a cast that does not appear to be expressing themselves in a huge self-congratulatory exercise in Improvisation. Dear God, what is this movie supposed to be about anyway? I recognize a slim plot amidst the clutter of machine gun fire, exploding heads, flying body parts, bombs blowing up, bullets flying, and deafening discharges everywhere, but mostly it appears to be a collection of big-name actors performing their personal favorite characterizations (or caricatures) regardless of whether they look foolish in the process. I found myself wondering just what kind of blackmail pictures Neveldine and Taylor must have on Kyra Sedgwick (tv’s “The Closer”), for example, that would explain her decision to trampy play television host Gina Parker Smith, whose main goal at the beginning of the picture seems to be nothing more than to bed billionaire video game creator Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall; tv’s “Dexter”). Her over-the-top glitter eye make-up and lip smacking peculiarities notwithstanding, she is only overshadowed by Hall’s completely twisted and ham-handed performance as a Southern eccentric with a dark agenda of his own hidden beneath his veneer of genteel, if somewhat odd, behavior. The inclusion of one scene in particular, which features an elaborately-choreographed and lighted Bob Fosse-inspired musical number highlighting our villain dancing and lip-syncing to a medley of Sammy Davis, Jr. singing “I've Got You Under My Skin,” “Big Bad John,” and “Night And Day” with a dozen death row goons as his back-up dancers is just… well, entertaining, sure, but how it fits into the action film about these same death row inmates seeking their freedom by fighting each other to the death through thirty rounds of bloody mayhem as a way to be set free isn’t any clearer than how or why other big names like John Leguizamo (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs), Milo Ventimiglia (tv’s “Heroes”), John de Lancie (Pathology), Alison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell), Amber Valletta (Premonition), Terry Crews (Terminator Salvation), Aaron Yoo (Friday the 13th), and Ludacris (Max Payne) all show up in cameo or small but significant roles. Did none of these people read the script? I mean, it couldn’t have taken more than five minutes at best.

I’m sure it sounded good. On one level Gamer could be said to look at how our society has become enslaved by its own love of technology and that in allowing ourselves to be isolated by this we then become less connected to one another and more easily led by what is “fed” to us by those who control that technology to a point where we become addicted to this very technology and then those who control it can alter our reality as they please. That sounds deep, doesn’t it? If I was Gerard Butler (The Ugly Truth) I might buy into it too. Bwwwwaaaahhhhhh! I’m sorry. I can’t even write that with a straight face. Maybe some of the others bought that stuff, but you know Butler was probably tanked and signed the contract between shots of Cutty Sark and thought it was his bar tab. I love Gerard Butler. I really do, but he has never impressed me as the brightest bulb in the marquee. I think if he read the script he just saw this as another chance to make a movie where he got to kick a lot of ass, and he does do that in Gamer.

Oh yeah, I hadn’t even mentioned Butler. He stars as Kable, the death row inmate turned into a star by Castle, who has manipulated the game so the inmate would get far in the game and thus guarantee a worldwide audience of hundreds-of-millions on pay per view. Of course, Castle has no intention of letting his star win his freedom, so he plans to ensure that Kable doesn’t make it to the 30th level. Why it means a rat’s ass to him one way or the other is beyond me, but it does. The one complication is a seventeen year old kid named Simon (Logan Lerman; 3:10 to Yuma), the Gamer who is in control Kable’s movements via the nano-technology implanted in his brain and linked to Simon’s home computer. Now guess who’s going to be hunted down by Kable, Castle, and the rebel Humanz, who are determined to warn the world against the dangers of Castle’s nefarious schemes? Yawn!

So, truthfully, for adults, Gamer couldn’t be lamer. I’m sure for teenagers who don’t care about anything more than watching things and people explode it will be a (very) wet (as in bloody) dream come true. For the rest of us, it will be something to forget a day after you’ve seen it. I chalk it all up to the Bernie Madoff scandal. We know Kyra got stung, but I’ll bet if you check the list of the embezzler’s victims you’ll find everyone who worked on this movie lost money to that bastard. Let’s just hope that old fart never gets his chance to play this game. He’s already played enough people.

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