Gamer – DVD Review

There are people out there that think the Internet, video games, and reality television are all evil and will cause the destruction of mankind as we know it. There are many more people who love all of those things, and know the difference between entertainment and reality. But what happens if you love and are entertained by all of those things, but still think it is going to destroy society? Well you make a movie about it, of course. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, the two main guys behind the chaotic Crank films, are those people, and the movie they made is Gamer.

In Gamer, a possible alternate future for America is presented. Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has a spawned a world of real-life gamers where a team of condemned criminals called “Slayers” are trying to survive thirty deadly levels, at the end of which only one player will survive. Any player surviving the thirty rounds will receive a full pardon for his crimes. One such super-soldier, Kable (Gerard Butler), has survived twenty-seven rounds and is almost at the last leg to his freedom. However, he decides to go against the system. Meanwhile, in the technology created by Castle, gamers pay a subscription fee to control the minds of these players in a community called “Society.” Simon (Logan Lerman) has controlled Kable’s brain through twenty-seven rounds, more than any other Society gamer. Because of the popularity of Slayers and Society, Castle has become a millionaire and a sensation in the media world. Along the way, it is revealed that Kable’s wife, Angie (Amber Valletta), is also controlled by Society gamers. With the help of the rebel leader Humanz (Ludacris), Kable searches for his missing wife and daughter and that ultimately leads him to the final encounter with Castle.

There is nothing about Gamer that is unique. Most people will find this movie very similar to 2008’s Death Race. If you are a true movie expert, you will immediately think of 1987’s The Running Man, when you see the premise for this film. Since the same people behind the Crank films are behind this movie, you can expect many similarities there as well. The action is fast and furious for sure, but this film really doesn’t know what it wants to be. He has a clear message to deliver. It wants to tell everyone that reality television and video games are bad and will lead to nothing but bad things for America in the future. That will certainly make you think, but then it tries to force those messages down the throats of the viewers. Nothing here is subtle, which is fine with the action, but not with the chaotic “shaky” camera work and preaching.

The acting is decent enough. Michael C. Hall is the best actor in this film, but unfortunately he gets less screen time than Gerard Butler. Butler is a capable lead action star, but Gamer is at its best when Hall is on the screen. Pretty much every other person you see on screen is a veteran of a television series or multiple films. So at least they are able to hold everything together and make Gamer watchable until the end. It’s too bad that the characters they play aren’t as developed as you would have liked to see.

If you like Crank or Death Race, or even The Running Man, you will probably enjoy this film. It’s entertaining enough to watch one time, but multiple viewings aren’t really necessary. There is really nothing new presented here, even though there is some interesting ideas thrown around in this film. The people behind this film should just have put their message out there, and let viewers draw their own conclusions rather than trying to persuade every second that video games and reality television is bad for us. Oh, and not every action film has to have the “shaky” cameras. In fact, it pretty much distracts from what Gamer does well.

The video included is available in both widescreen color presented at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The quality is good, but not the greatest. About on par with other new release films on DVD these days. No major problems here.

The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and Spanish as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either.

Audio Commentary
There is a full-length audio commentary for this film with Mark Neveldine (writer/director), Brian Taylor (writer/director), Amber Valletta (actress), Alison Lohman (actress), and Terry Crews (actor). Taylor and Neveldine talk most of the time, but they do a nice job of balancing out the information and entertainment. The actors chime once in awhile to give you more entertainment as well.

“Inside the Game: Controlling Gamer” Documentary
This runs 80 minutes and it comprehensively covers every aspect of the film’s production. Neveldine and Taylor are your hosts for this documentary. There is pretty much the ultimate making-of featurette. Despite it being overly long, it’s never really boring.

“First Person Shooter: The Evolution of RED” Featurette
This runs 17 minutes and in it the directors talk about working with the revolutionary RED One digital camera. It’s really a cross from being an advertisement for the camera and an informative look into the evolution of camera technology.

It’s worth a rental if you like action films like Crank. Not really must-own for anyone, though. It’s not necessarily must-watch for anyone either, though.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment presents Gamer. Directed and Written by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor. Starring Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: January 19, 2010. Available at

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