Science-fiction films set in the future have a lot of back story and rules, like a video game, but Neveldine and Taylor start Gamer with a fantastic battle scene beginning, beyond the iconic opening montage. The game zone is a rugged rubbled inner city, littered with debris and multiple places for killers to hide. In a nifty sequence, Kable atop the stairs after an intense firefight below, spies during a quiet moment the game's goal. Butler's Kable hears approaching footsteps coming up the stairs but cannot himself move. He mutters, "Turn me around." His user, who is a stellar player, takes out the approaching foes, as Kable takes a sigh of relief before he's blown out the window. A delay in the gaming: the viewer knows immediately that the human pawns might not be able to control their movements but they certainly can feel pain and especially fear. Gamer is a media-driven world and is evocative of previous influential science-fiction films such as Paul Michael Glaser's The Running Man (1987), Paul Verhoeven's Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990). Gamer shares The Running Man's theme of bloody and real violence as popular entertainment which reaps massive amounts of cash for its corporate heads. Neveldine and Taylor take Verhoeven's approach to their media sequences: they're biting and satirical takes on our own current culture. Gamer doesn't come off as derivative though: as the Crank films show, this duo has their own acerbic and twisted wit, often playful and perverse. For example, the Society sequences are a highlight. The imagery is culled from glossy music videos, magazines, and adult films. The participants look like Michael Ninn models, and the action is shot from the user's (or viewer's) p.o.v. The user's twisted and disgusted little minds are played out, and Neveldine and Taylor don't hide it. The flesh, flashiness, and the sex are rolled out against a backdrop of quick cuts and tight shots: it ain't supposed to be sexy but shown as it is: commercial and cold. The internet community takes quite a few hits, too, in some truly comical sequences. Rich kid Simon gets multiple video instant messages as a current gaming celebrity with a standout one being British twins. "Hey Simon, want to see our tits?" Yep. It's nice to see you too.
Gamer behind the backdrop of a virtual and media environment has some human touches. Of course, Butler's Kable's is the film's hero with a tragic past which plays out as the story progresses. However, a small touch which I thought initially would be incidental involves Kable's fellow inmate, Freek, played fantastically by John Leguizamo. I thought Freek would be the chatterbox sidekick to Butler's Kable, but his character is really a heartfelt touch to the violent action. This addition was a plus. The action scenes are phenomenal, and Neveldine and Taylor bring their Crank blend of visual and audio tricks: multiple styles are employed for both the look and the sound and it's intoxicating and a sensory overload. Some of the visual and audio tricks are from video game imagery but most are true filmic compositions and very well-done. Hall as Cable is fantastic as the software mogul; and Butler is more than credible as an action star. Kable's a man of few words and intense action.
Gamer is intense fun. The sometimes nasty and perverse vibe and seriously bloody action takes this one out of light summer fare and into darker territory. Gamer won't appeal to everybody but it certainly did to me.