Monday, November 30, 2009

Gamer (2009) review: One of the Best video game movies, ironically NOT based on an existing video game

Overall movie verdict: 7/10

The Good: underlying social commentary, easy to follow story, Gerald Butler kicking ass, video game style shoot outs

The Bad: underwhelming acting, cliched premise, erratic camerawork during fights, uninteresting characters

Current Availability status: DVD in stores now

DVD Features:
- none. just the movie

DVD value for money grade: C-

Anyone would be right in expecting this movie to be nothing more than pure action. Just watch, have fun and forget. After all, that is what the trailers make it out to be.

Gamer, however, proved to be a huge surprise and a better than expected.

For starters, Gamer is far from a mindless action flick. If anything it hearkens back to the late 80s where films were exceedingly violent and there was this obsession with futuristic settings and dystopian societies(remember Robocop, Total Recall, Blade Runner etc). Great to see that genre getting a revival.

Couple of parallels can be noticed between this and a number of other movies. Particularly Paul WS Anderson's "Death Race" and "The Condemned" which starred Stone Cold Steve Austin. Gamer's Premise about a wrongly accused criminal forced to take part in a "game" that is popular worldwide would no doubt cause an uproar of about how this movie lacks originality.

But who cares, this film delivers what one would expect from any first person shooter video game: non-stop action. The action is relentless and fast paced, though some viewers would be turned off by the erratic camera motions, whip pans and weird angles. Depending on the individual's taste, that style of filming would actually serves to increase the intensity and frantic feel of each action scene. Video game fans would no doubt agree that some of the "in game" combat footage scenes beats the crap out of the highly publicized 10 minute FPS scene in the 2005's "DOOM" movie.

Sadly, the acting was not really up to scratch, especially from Gerald butler. Gerald Butler is not a terrible actor judging from his previous starring roles. Maybe it was just how he was told to portray his character or the script he was given, but the acting was a little disappointing. Then again, its the future, a future where the general populace is so desensitized to violence that they may be a little less emotional than people in the present. In that case, much of the "flat" acting is negligible since it merely serves to better portray this dystopian society and how far humankind has fallen.

What stood out most was the implied messages and underlying themes of this film. The whole thing is a direct spoof of modern video gaming culture. It is like a cautionary tale about where our society may be heading . Themes about corporations controlling the people, desensitization to media violence, a downward spiral into decadence, and a world where the media is gaining a greater dominance over the minds of the youth are ALL spliced into the movie and, thankfully, come across as only implied and in no way "preachy". However that is also Gamer's downfall. The subtle social messages might be lost on the casual viewer thanks to the disappointing characters, less-than-original storyline and too much emphasis placed on the action.

In the end, most people might regard Gamer as a brainless action-er meant only for Video game addicts, action junkies and adrenaline pumped young adults. Not as if that is a bad thing. Also the more learned crowd like university students might get a kick out of discussing the many social issues that this movie brings to light.

Entertainment: A
Story: B
Acting: C
Characters: B-
Replay value: B
"Brains": A-

Go for it: if you like violence like in video games and a story with a deeper social message

Avoid: if you demand only thespian level acting in a movie or are not a fan of "dystopian future" genre. Also if you get queasy at the sight of blood.

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