Gamer on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review


Gamer begins with no titles as such, just words like ‘Kable Killer’ and ‘Slayers’ posted up as electronic billboards on buildings all around the city.

This is because a man known as Kable (Gerard Butler) is a Slayer, one of a number of men taking part in a live-action Call of Duty-style game, played by death row inmates, choosing this as an alternative sentence. If they stay alive after 30 sessions they get set free. Kable has completed 27 so far, yet until now, no-one else has ever managed more than 10.

In yet another movie where death becomes the national sport, so to speak, Slayers is the violent follow-up to a game called Society, where – to cut a long story short about how something scientific-sounding is meant to sound complex – something called the Nanex controls your behaviour. It’s been planted in the heads of those who take part. In the case of Society – a game like The Sims, but controlling real human beings – rich people pay to control them, while the participants get paid to be controlled, and demoralised.

The creator of these games is Ken Castle (Dexter‘s Michael C Hall), a recluse who rarely gives media interviews, yet chooses to give one, after nearly a decade, to Gina Parker Smith (Kyra Sedgwick), a typical airhead daytime TV presenter, something which is soon hacked into by the Humanz, led by the Humanz Brother (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), a group who are opposed to everything that Castle stands for and want to see it brought to a crashing halt by putting viruses into the system to stop the games from running. Naturally, Castle will fight his corner as his games have made him richer than Bill Gates overnight.

As Kable, or John Tillman as we learn he’s really called, edges ever closer to freedom, he discovers that he’s being controlled by a teenage lad called Simon (Logan Lerman). Contact between the players and the convicts is forbidden, but in the interests of a necessary plot device to come, that’s something which Simon will choose to ignore and which Tillman will choose to accept. In the meantime, when it comes to his final challenge, he’ll have to go up against Hackman, the latest and baddest slayer in Castle’s creation. The difference with this one is that he has no-one controlling him, whereas Tillman and all the rest have a problem with the ‘ping’, the delay between the gamer performing the action and the convict carrying it out.

Gamer is an audio-visual treat and there’s lots of little nuances that’ll only be understood by gamers watching this, such as an in-game moment of a man simply walking into the grill of a closed shop and continuing to try to walk forward – something that happens frequently in games when the AI hasn’t been programmed properly and tertiary characters get themselves stuck in a loop of ‘going nowhere’.

The directors behind Crank and Crank 2: High Voltage certainly know their games and all the quick-cut kind of action a gaming fan would expect.

However, as you’d expect from any film like this, eventually the participants want to get back to real life and when it stepped outside of the ‘game’ it did lose it a little and just wasn’t as entertaining.

The acting in this film certainly never had to trouble the Oscars ceremony. Gerard Butler turns in a performance that does the job as a man who just wants to get his life back, but there’s nothing to shout about from the rest. The rest of the cast includes Amber Valletta, as his wife Angie, is an actress in Society who’s trying to get custody of her son from social services system – which isn’t easy when your husband is a lifer – but doesn’t seem a particularly concerned parent; John Leguizamo turns up in a completely redundant role as Freek, another lifer who’s chosen to take part in these games; Logan Lerman, who plays the game in a futuristic room-filling sort-of Xbox Live dashboard; the uber-cute Alison Lohman, here with dreadlocks as Trace, who helps Tillman out along the way; and Michael C Hall, so damn good in Dexter, but while he’s watchable here, it does feel like he had a spare few days to kill, if you’ll pardon the pun, and turned up to play the manical/mental baddie for a change.

Overall, Gamer is a slice of braindead fun, so switch your brain off, put this on and enjoy.

Presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is sharp and detailed, recreating the bold colours and action required for both Slayers and Society. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.

The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version, and during the battle scenes it’s fucking awesome! There’s split-surround effects all over the shop with explosions and gunfire plenty. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one to use as a demo disc, but perhaps not while granny’s round as she’ll baulk at the bloodshed!

The extras are as follows:

    iCON MODE: The Making of Gamer (2:12:00): The two directors talk about the film with a picture-in-picture mode, rather like an audio commentary but with some extra content from time to time. Worth a watch if you really want to see more about it. Yes, this segment does appear to run longer than the film itself and that’s because it features around 37 minutes of extra content on top of any commentary that introduces it. There’s around 30 such segments here.

    Inside the game: Controlling Gamer (1:19:35): Well, you can’t accuse the directors of short-changing us with the extras, as a near-80-minute feature comes next, showing the film go from concept to completion, all with chat from various cast and crew members. However, it’s lazily chaptered with a mere 3 spread across it.

    Cheat Codes (41:20): Another feature looking at various scenes from Gamer via video and audio explanations from the crew. This segment has 34 chapters! If you’re going to give us tons on here, why not give us a decent number during the last supplemental feature AND during the film itself?

    Audio commentary: with writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, plus cast members Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman and Terry Crews.

The menu mixes images from the film with a small piece of looped theme music. There are subtitles in English only and a woeful 12 chapters over the 95-minute running time. I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, taking into account one each for the opening and closing credits.

Once again, this is a disc which contains trailers BEFORE the main menu appears, as if we’re still in the age of rental video. We are not! Why the hell do the studios keep on doing this?


Detailed specs:

Running time: 95 minutes
Year: 2009
Cat no: EBR5140
Released: January 2010
Chapters: 12
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 1.85:1
Disc Format: 2*BD50
Distributor: Entertainment in Video

Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Producer: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Skip Williamson and Richard Wright
Screenplay: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

Kable/John Tillman: Gerard Butler
Angie: Amber Valetta
Ken Castle: Michael C Hall
Gina Parker Smith: Kyra Sedgwick
Simon Silverton: Logan Lerman
Trace: Alison Lohman
Hackman: Terry Crews
Gorge: Ramsey Moore
Humanz Brother: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges
Humanz Dude: Aaron Yoo
Geek Leader: Jonathan Chase
Backup Geek: Dan Callahan
Delia: Brighid Fleming
Travis Scotch: Johnny Whitworth
Rick Rape: Milo Ventimiglia
Sandra: Zoe Bell
Freek: John Leguizamo
Agent Keith: Keith David