"Gamer" should be played again and again

Sept. 9, 2009, midnight | By Jasmine Sarjeant | 12 years, 8 months ago

An overplayed plot is eclipsed by thrilling cinematography

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's newest project "Gamer" is a combination of violent action, frequent nudity, and a corrupted world, but what it lacks in storyline, it makes up for in first-rate filming.

Kable (Gerard Butler), a participant in a game where death row inmates have a chance to be controlled by a normal civilian in a match to the death, and the promise that after 30 matches, they'll be set free. The game, created by technological mastermind Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), is as popular to its worldwide audience as the Superbowl is to Americans, or as soccer is to the rest of the world. However, after surviving 29 matches and becoming a worldwide celebrity, Kable knows things that would shatter Castle's public image, and Castle will stop at nothing to keep him quiet. With the help of a secretive anti-Castle group called Humanz, the leader of which is played by rapper Ludacris, Kable puts an end to the corruption and restores natural order.

The story is one we've seen before: the world is controlled by publicly worshiped revolutionary claiming to bring peace and happiness, but all he's doing is gaining control and taking advantage of people who don't have an alternative. Then, when all hope seems lost, a hero emerges and restores the world to how it should exist. While the plot seems passé, and extremely similar to that of 2008's "Death Race," Neveldine and Taylor have managed to spin this movie into a theatrical masterpiece.

As the movie featured minimal lighting with constantly overcast skies reminiscent of David Fincher's "Se7en" and provided multiple cameos by lesser known but greatly appreciated stars like John Leguizamo and Milo Ventimiglia, Neveldine and Taylor's depiction of the story breeds ingenuity. The team created a prodigal action movie, in a time when those are few and far between, with excellent casting, nonstop special effects, and slight excessive nudity; all of which are necessary components of a perfect popcorn flick.

Butler's performance ignited the screen; his character's muted rage and feelings of entitlement to a better life was reminiscent of his revolutionary performance in 2006's "300". Underestimated stars like Hall and Kyra Sedgwick deliver stimulating performances throughout the film. Hall pulls of his character's unnerving quirks flawlessly, much like he does in his show "Dexter", while bringing a certain love-to-hate quality characteristic of the modern-day villain. Sedgwick, as talk show host Gina Parker Smith, was very believable, but did not stretch her emotional abilities as far as she could have. Regardless of her character's somewhat annoying demeanor, Sedgwick managed to bring her character to life and carry her on the same level as Butler and Hall.

Although the premise seems disturbingly similar to last year's "Death Race", "Gamer" is an engaging film that redefines the meaning of control and asks you what you'd be willing to risk for the glory.

"Gamer" (83 minutes) is rated R for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and language. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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