279) Gamer (2009) Dir: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor Date Released: September 2009 Date Seen: September 4, 2009 Rating: 2.25/5
Not sure why but for some reason Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor significantly dialed down their signature hyper-spastic aesthetic in their new film, Gamer . They went from Crank: High Voltage, which had a lot of fun, crass humor and an ADD surplus of energy to Gamer which is a sedate, derivative, third-tier scifi actioner. In other words, they chose to put a strait jacket on themselves and in the process they lost what made them so exciting in the first place.
Gamer doesn't feel like it's got anything to say that popular scifi predecessors like The Running Man or Rollerball haven't already said before except in a more affecting and exciting way. Neveldine and Taylor seem content to just happily build on those earlier films foundations and hence don't really do much to establish why their film's world is unique. Save for a few glimpses of their vision of what a twisted, virtual reality version of The Sims might be like if players were controlling real human beings, the film has little to no innovation on its side. Its like a first draft of a script that Neveldine and Taylor not surprisingly never revised.
As long as we're assuming that the film is knowingly derivative of stuff like The Running Man, Gamer comes up as a failure. The character actors in the film, like John Leguizamo, help out a lot but action hero Gerard Butler just isn't charismatic enough to fill in Arnie's shoes, which is kind of sad considering how Neveldine and Taylor were able to make even Jason Stattham come to life in the Crank movies.
Gamer however doesn't allow its filmmakers to fly off the handle like they could in those movies and hence deprives the viewer of some of its most potentially entertaining aspect. Rather than let Michael C. Hall, who plays the film's villain, really cut loose, they just use him in three or four scenes and then forget about him. Based on the scenes he is in however, I'm sure that if he were given more time his performance would reach the levels of camp ecstasy that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did as Cobra Commander in GI Joe. But as it is, the film just never really takes off.