"Gamer" - 2009
Dir. by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor - 1 hr. 35 min.
It's kind of surprising when you see a film that brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Even if it's just a deft camera move or a funny line, even the worst films usually have at least one moment that justifies it's existence. The only thing that I laughed at here was in the first few minutes, where one of the gamer-controlled people started "tea-bagging" a fallen foe (in quotes, because it's a fully-clothed gamer version of tea-bagging, not a buck-naked sex act). Beyond that, I'd seen literally everything here before.
There's the plot, lifted wholesale from"Death Race," "The Condemned," and "The Running Man" before that (death-row inmates given a shot at freedom by entering a life-or-death entertainment program). There's a collection of characters utterly without nuance (which is an achievement of sorts - you'd think some nuance might creep in on accident or through the acting, but you'd be wrong). I suppose the filmmakers thought that making the scenario a video game was the twist that made their film unique, except they'd already kind of played that card in the "Crank" movies. It even had the underground movement leader played by a washed-up rapper (Ludacris, in this instance), tying it to Ice-T's similar role in "Johnny Mnemonic" (which I also watched this weekend).
Look, all of this recycled, done-better-elsewhere material is executed competently and energetically. And on those terms, it's almost watchable. But it's a complete bore watching cardboard cut-outs try to out-badass and out-cool one another. And it felt like every time I was begging the film to give me a reason to give a shit about any of the characters in it, they'd just blow something up, as if shaking a shiny key-chain in front of a frontal-lobe damaged toddler. It would be a fitting punishment for the duo behind this film to have their PS3 taken away for a week.
On the bonus side, I was thrilled to see James Roday and Maggie Lawson of "Psych" have minor roles here, Roday rocking an awesome mustache.
2 / 5 - NF Streaming