Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are an acquired taste. From someone who skipped out on their Crank series, I was surprised at how much I wanted to see their newest venture Gamer. With the film now out on DVD many people who were apprehensive about the film will be able to check it out. The story itself is highly ridiculous and within the first ten minutes you’ll figure out if you enjoy their style if you’re undecided, but even if you hate the film the DVD features make up for it.
In the not too distant future genius Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has created a world where people are able to control others in a living video game. The two worlds created are “Society,” a Sims/Second Life place where “actors” can be controlled to live out a hedonistic lifestyle or “Slayers where convicts fight to the death. The star of Slayers is Kable (Gerard Butler) who is close to the thirty wins needed to be pardoned and released. When it becomes apparent that Castle won’t allow Kable to leave, the convict must attempt to gain control of himself in order to bring everything down.
Gamer is ridiculous, and that’s a double edged sword. The story is highly ludicrous and all the over the place, but for those who enjoy the frenetic, crazy pace of past Neveldine and Taylor films will love it. The hyper stylized world of Society is the best part as the colors and world are overwhelming, but if a living video game like that were to exist it seems obvious that’s how it would look. The directors craft a world that, scarily enough, could be ours and the questions come up for there. The world of mind control isn’t new in these sci-fi films but Gamer makes things feel more human by looking at all the world’s involved. Unfortunately all sense of story is thrown aside for pretty visuals, crass talk, and degradation of characters. Michael C. Hall is so campy and over-the-top that you just burst out laughing, I mean the man has a song and dance number. It’s unspoken whether Hall is intentionally meant to be crazy, mirroring a game villain, but at the end of the day every time he appears the film grinds to a halt. Kyra Sedgewick, Alison Lohman and Ludacris are wasted in small roles are freedom fighters. The strongest aspect is Butler who is remarkably well placed in this role. The biggest issue news fans will have to test is the limitless crass talk at the expense of women. Neveldine and Taylor seem to make it clear how they feel about women, making them constant take their shirts off and giving them degrading names seen in one particular scene with the character Simon. Within fifteen minutes you’ll know whether you like the directors as directors or not.
The DVD is great all things considered; even if you don’t enjoy the film the extras are entertaining. There’s a full-length DVD commentary with the directors as well as Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman and Terry Crews. They go over making the film, the inspiration so nothing too interesting. The cast seems to spend the majority of time laughing at the director’s jokes and glad-handing but you get some insight on the movie. The best feature is Inside the Game: Controlling Gamer, a three part featurette detailing all the aspects of making the film. Neveldine and Taylor are funny, not afraid to drop the F-bomb, and spend a lot of time bashing the studio who wanted them to cut the budget. It’s great to see directors liberate themselves and talk true about making a film so if you want a real and unvarnished look at how a film is made, check this out. First Person Shooter: The Evolution of Red is an odd quasi-commercial about the Red Digital camera that was used to make the film. For those not too experienced with cameras, this doesn’t try to be overtly complex and it does have some interesting looks at the way certain things were shot but overall it feels like a longwinded advertisement. Other than there’s a theatrical trailer for Gamer and trailers for Saw VI, Blood Creek, More than a Game, Crank II, the Iron Man cartoon and a website called Break.com. It’s interesting to see how desperate Lionsgate is for features since the first four were presented before the movie.
Gamer is an odd duck since it’s definitely not for everybody. The story is crude and the acting is just laughable but the three-part featurette is a lot of fun and interesting. Definitely worth a rental if you’re a fan of the directors, but stick to the featurette if you haven’t seen their work.