Awfully Good: Gamer
London may fall this week, but it's not the first time Gerard Butler has saved the world…
Stars: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Terry Crews
THE RUNNING MAN with video games.
Directing duo Neveldine/Taylor make movies perfectly suited for this column. GAMER may not be as awfully good as the amazing CRANK films, but it definitely has its highlights (and lowlights). It's a movie with a cool central conceit, just executed in insane and often goofy ways.
Dan and Brenda's FIFTH ELEMENT cosplay was on point.
GAMER takes place in a future where gaming is apparently the only thing that matters in life. Pretty much every square inch of space around the world—from American skyscrapers to the pyramids of Egypt—are used as advertisements showing off the hottest titles and their creators. But video games have morphed beyond pixels to real-life scenarios where people control other people via nanobot brain implants. The two most popular of these are Society—a SIMS-like game where you live your life and your fantasies in other people bodies—and Slayers—a combat game where death row inmates try to stay alive and win their freedom.
Now you know why Porky Pig never wears pants.
Slayers gives Neveldine/Taylor plenty of room to showcase their trademark frenetic style, crazy cinematography and drug-induced action sensibilities. This is a movie that should probably come with seizure medication—full of constant shaky cam, spinning cam, rollerblading cam, and rapid fire editing. Throw in a soundtrack that seems to be almost exclusively Marilyn Manson's first album and...well, you get the idea. The video game scenes themselves are pretty good at replicating the feel of actual gaming, at least better than most cinematic adaptations.
Maybe if you didn't sit on them…
Where GAMER really stands out are the weird glimpses of future life. There's a rave with a hilarious human Newton's Cradle. There's a spot-on vision of what a teenage boy's room would be like if he lived in a holodeck with internet access. And then there's the Society game, which comes off like a fever/wet dream of Japanese culture and is more terrifying than the game that actually murders people. Think of it as an overly-colorful sensory orgy with a soundtrack by the Bloodhound Gang. (If that doesn't immediately chill your blood, then you're a stronger human than me.) It's a world where everyday people explore their base desires—deviant sex, random violence and chemical indulgence—except using real humans that are consciously aware but not in control of their own bodies. [shudder]
Oh, did I mention there's a character in Society named Rick Rape (played by Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia), who dry humps everyone and everything and has been banned multiple times from the game for unspecified behavior? [shudder]
The SAW porn parody didn't pull any punches.
All this in the hopes of trying to say something meaningful about humanity and our dependence on technology and the voyeurism of reality TV and our inherent fascination with violence, etc. These ideas are definitely present in GAMER but it doesn't succeed in doing anything other than vaguely pointing them out. The problem is the script is too simple. Forget subtext; there's barely any plot beyond the bad guy wants to take over the world and Gerard Butler needs to stop him to clear his name and rescue his wife and kid. You really want to like Butler in this, but he's barely a character in his own movie, too generic to be memorable. The rest of the cast—Kyra Sedgewick, John Leguizamo, Ludacris and Keith David—are equally forgettable.
"Let me read your mind. You're craving…Bacon!"
Thankfully, the villains are the by far the best part of GAMER and completely overshadow everything else. DEXTER's Michael C. Hall munches scenery as the game creator who is deliciously, over-the-top evil. How's this for a villain: Hall made Gerard Butler kill his best friend and get sent to death row, turned his wife in to an online prostitute controlled by one of the obese guys from WALL-E, and out of spite adopted his daughter and raised her as his own. Hall gives his character lots of wacky quirks and hilarious line deliveries throughout the movie, which culminates in an actual 100% real song-and-dance number. It has to be one of the weirdest hero-villain showdowns I've ever seen—Butler infiltrates Hall's house, only to be treated to a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin," complete with stage lighting and back-up dancers. Hall even keeps singing as Butler fights and kills all of his bodyguards. Terry Crews is also completely unhinged as Hall's main henchman: licking knives, covering himself in blood, and even break dancing when necessary. He also beat Ultron to the punch by singing a creepy version of "I've Got No Strings."
Why mo-cap James Spader when you can just paint Terry Crews grey?
There are a handful of other pleasantly bizarre moments in GAMER, such as an uncomfortable naked confrontation between Crews and Butler in a locker room, and a head-scratching scene where Butler urinates and vomits alcohol in to a car's gas tank and then drives it for an entire chase. But overall, the movie can't help but feel a little anticlimactic with some missed opportunities, specifically with the kid controlling Butler (played by PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER's Logan Lerman). It's an enjoyable 90 minutes, but one or two more memorable elements could've elevated this to CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE status. And that's a standard every film should aspire to.
The MACHETE porn parody didn't pull any punches.
Michael C. Hall and Terry Crews' craziness, David Keith and nut butter, and more.
More of Hall and Crews. Plus, Rick Rape and a terrifying vision of the future. (NSFW)
Plenty of random boobs during the Society and rave scenes.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- A Marilyn Manson song plays
- Michael C. Hall is crazy
- Terry Crews is crazy
- A vehicle flies through the air
- A bad guy sings
- An innocent person dies
Double shot if:
- Terry Crews cracks his neck
Thanks to Mark and Eun for suggesting this week's movie!
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