Last night, I went into 9 with extremely high expectations. And though it was a beautiful film, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. This weekend, I saw Gamer, and I entered the theater with the very lowest of expectations. So when it wasn't a total waste of brain cells, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie stars a good-Lord-look-at-that-guy's-arms Gerard Butler as Kable, the breakout star of the first-person shooter game Slayer, in which the players control flesh and blood humans. It's all very Death Race 2000 and Surviving the Game (an Ice-T movie that I've found myself talking about like four times in the past week).
Slayer was developed by Ken Castle (played for laughs and shivers by Dexter's Michael C. Hall), a video game designer who made his fortune with Society, a Second Life-style game. Players control real people in a controlled environment and make them go to raves, hook up with one another, and go to raves again. Slayer utilizes the same technology, but features death row volunteers who can attempt to win their freedom through combat. Of course, Kable shouldn't be there in the first place. He was framed, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, or he knew too much, or something like that. Now he just wants to win his freedom so that he can be with his daughter and extremely good-looking wife (supermodel Amber Valletta), who's currently making ends meet super-skanked up as an "actor" in Society. Though there was a lot of Valletta bum and quite a bit of gratuitous nudity in general, it works in a story based on satisfying our most gluttonous impulses. Heads explode, boobs get sprayed with blood, and Gerard Butler spends a lot of time shirtless.
The movie employs one of the central concepts behind The Matrix. Since everyone in Slayer is potentially an enemy out to kill you and end your winning streak, good guys don't need to get too caught up in the morality of shooting everyone in their path. It's just what you do if you want to see your baby mama again. Of course, there's an underground movement opposed to Slayer and Society, and thank God, it's led by Ludacris! There are actually a surprising number of well-known actors in this movie. In addition to Butler, Valletta, and Luda, appearances are made by Kyra Sedgwick, Alison Lohman, that lame guy from Heroes and Gilmore Girls, and John Leguizamo. Psych stars James Roday and Maggie Lawson appear briefly as a sleazy newscasting duo, while Tarantino's Deathproof muse Zoe Bell shows up in what is, unfortunately, little more than a cameo.
But it's really Michael C. Hall who steals the show. Watching the award-winning actor from Dexter and Six Feet Under ham it up for the camera is a blast, especially when he leads a dozen of his mind-controlled soldiers in a choreographed performance of Frank Sinatra's "Under My Skin." It's like a zombie musical, and that scene alone makes the movie worth seeing. Sure, Gamer has more than its share of glaring plot holes, some questionable continuity, and a totally anti-climactic ending. But overall, it's a good end-of-summer popcorn flick. I give it three out of five bloody boobs!