Neveldine/Taylor are no strangers to inherently flawed concepts. But it seemed as if they could still manage to do something with them. Even Crank: High Voltage, while a let down from its surprisingly stunning predecessor, was able to sustain some level of anticipation. But Gamer does more than collapse under the weight of its invalid (and, at this point, tired) concept. It fails at every point along to the way to create any sense of urgency or to make any character’s motivations clear beyond immediate survival.
There is a plot, to be sure, and it isn’t a difficult one to follow. But nobody in the movie seems to really notice. Usually, a movie like this will force characters to do things counter-intuitive to what any reasonable person would do in order to preserve a few moments that can be easily marketed in a trailer. Gamer though, has no trouble moving its characters into any situation it wants; given the subject matter it could all make a quasi kind of sense. And yet, the extras have more illogical actions than any major character does. Instead, they just plod along with a boring single-mindedness that makes the violence surrounding them seem like a minor annoyance rather than anything actually dangerous.
The craziness that makes the Crank movies so watchable is barely evident here. It’s as if Neveldine/Taylor are uninspired impersonators of their own style. The shock editing and cartoony sound work is just dull when it isn’t actively annoying. There is absolutely no context to any of the in game battle scenes around which this movie is ostensibly built. Even the very premise is only talked about in expository objectivity for half the movie. When Simon (Logan Lerman), technically the titular character, finally shows up, it’s long past the time when he could have been relevant (which is a shame because his scenes with interrogator Keith David are the only pieces of this mess worth saving.) And maybe the movie is aware of this, because almost as quickly, it renders him obsolete, even removing him from his part in the climax when everything points to him being the mastermind behind it.
Supervillain Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) is the thing you can hold on to, look forward to maybe, but mostly because he’s so fascinatingly terrible. In fact, comparing him to Brad Pitt’s similar performance in Inglourious Basterds illustrates the fine distinction between a good actor having fun with his part and one allowed off his leash completely and disappearing into inevitable self-involvement.
Castle’s plan to smoke out his nemesis, the Humanz movement, is a good one and would have been a satisfying twist if any of it had been shown beyond ghostly flashes after the fact. Not that we got to know any of the Humanz operatives very well anyway, but it’s impossible to feel dread on their part if it’s just explained to us that they’re dead now.
A bizarre musical bit comes way too late to be anything other than appalling and laughable. It’s supposed to show Castle’s manipulation abilities, and it does, but it’s also supposed to set up the climax to an action movie. So when Kable (Gerard Butler) beats these dancing henchmen to anonymous pulps, it feels more like a hate crime than victory.