There are movies that try to tell a very important message, and there are ones that try to entertain you for an hour or so. However, appearances can sometimes be deceiving. For instance, a movie or show that looks like it’s meaningful can turn out to be an empty soulless husk, like Lost.
And sometimes, every once in a blue moon, you get a movie that appears to be empty mindless entertainment but hides something more within if you just know where to look, like a magic eye puzzle made by George Orwell.
Gamer is at first appearances a brainless romp that makes fun of internet culture while letting Gerard Butler show off his muscles as he shoots lots of people. But I put it to you, dear reader, that Gamer is not just a sci-fi thriller, but one of the cleverest Cyberpunk movies for the first time in almost ten years.
The story follows John Stillman (Gerard Butler) as he fights in the ‘Slayer’ Tournament, where convicted criminals volunteer to be controlled by players in televised shootouts in the hope that they survive thirty fights and earn their freedom. Outside the realm of violence, you also have ‘Society’ an area filled with attractive people who are paid to let players control them in order to exercise their vices free of repercussions.
Sounds very much like a mix of Gladiator and The Running Man with a dash of Matrix. But this film is more observant than you may think.
Sure, there are the obligatory references to teabagging and cybersex, but Gamer holds no punches when it shows a downturn in society in general when consequences are taken away and people are given total freedom, even when the game is taking place in the real world. The fights themselves are brutally gory, and the distant, passive expressions on the faces of the participants under player control give gamers like me pause for thought as we wonder just how easily we could take our violent, careless and hedonistic actions from game characters to convicted criminals, to people so down on their luck they volunteer to be paid to be someone’s avatar?
Everything from the moment Butler’s player makes him do a little dance in the middle of a gunfight, to the usernames floating over avatars in Society like ‘Myballshurt’ and ‘Vaginablender’ is so reminiscent of the excesses of internet culture with places like 4Chan and games like Second Life that it brings home just how close humanity has always been to savagery like in this movie.
Butler himself is competent in his part as the straight man, the former soldier who had to watch as he fought for his life with no control over his own actions and finally has a chance to escape, but the true star of this movie has to be Michael C. Hall, who plays Frank Ken Castle, the villain of his movie and chief scenery eater! Stealing pretty much every scene he’s in with an anarchic glee. If you’re not much into gaming or the internet, then the chance to see Dexter performing a dance routine with a troupe of mind-controlled criminals is more than enough reason to see this film.
The beautiful irony of this movie is that for all the best efforts of retarded crusaders like Michael Atkinson and Jack Thomson, it was a movie by gamers, for gamers, that made the political message about free will, hedonism and how technology brings out the worst in people that they couldn’t have even dreamed of achieving… Whilst having a soundtrack that snuck a bit Deus Ex in at the same time!
I consider this one of the best Sci-Fi movies since the likes of District 9, Gattaca and Children of Men! Watch it expecting some fun and you certainly won’t be dissapointed.