Thursday, 1 April 2010

Gamer (2009)

Have you ever entertained the notion whilst you’re decimating soldier-shaped pixels on Call of Duty, spoken aloud to yourself as another man blows up in a shower of graphically-realistic guts:“What if that guy I’m playing, the dude running around onscreen and killing dudes as I press the X button, what if that dude was like real?” MINDEXPLOSION TOWN, POPULATION: YOU! I’m sure you have especially if you’re like fifteen years old and have an ex-rental copy of The Matrix: Reloaded, the cover of which you use to roll your very first joint of The Pot. The thought has also occurred to Neveldine/Taylor, the directing duo of douchebags who made Crank, which functioned itself as a live action videogame what with its 1980s-video-game graphic title card and Jason Statham running around like Sonic the Hedgehog trying to keep his heart pumping and his dick hard by doing crazy shit. Neveldine/Taylor were probably blowing up some Nazi soldiers on Call of Duty: The Search for Hitler's Bunker while they reclined on leather couches, their feet resting upon the naked prostitutes they pay money to act as flesh-furniture, cocaine and crack on their crevices, while they bluetoothed their agent into finding some immigrants to enter into illegal bum-fights in the bowels of their Hollywood mansion, and the thought struck, “Let’s make a fucking movie about this fucked up shit.” Or as they so eloquently describe on the making of: “This movie was birthed in the canals of reality TV and UFC and the internet...” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Gamer, another in the long line of sci-fi action movies that ask the question, ‘What is reality?’ The answer: explosions and shit.

Yes, Gamer is set “Some years from this exact moment” (as a title card helpfully informs us) with Marilyn Manson’s cover of ‘Sweet Dreams’ sneaking over the soundtrack as the global community of online media goes ape-shit for the biggest game/reality program, Slayers, with its featured players projected onto the sides of gigantic office buildings and the title stencilled across walls everywhere in the world. We proceed to experience what Slayers is basically like as we follow behind Kable (Gerald Butler), our hero, grunting along a deserted city block, blowing away other dirty-faced soldiers as explosions continually spark in warehouse warzones. Along with the fragmented cutting and hand-held camera work, it’s like you’re watching the climax to Children of Men, but it’s like more cool and shit, because it’s violence and it’s death and you don’t know what’s going, so who gives a fuck anyway, dude. Or as a colleague Nelly said while watching it: “I feel like I’m on crack just watching this.”

You might be confused as to what’s going on but not to worry Kyra Sedgwick pops up as the glamourpuss host of The Exposition/Backstory Chatshow where she interviews the creator of Slayers, Ken Castle (Michael C.Hall) who helpfully explains what the fuck is going on. See, he’s a Bill Gates clone with a broad Southern accent and philosophical nuggets like “You can get paid to be controlled or you can control to get paid” or “We live in society, we visit society.. . which one’s real?” During this sequence, Hall provides the movie with a big slice of ham with his devious and smarmy character; he’s an avator himself being controlled by an unseen Gary Oldman for over-the-top villain perfection. Y’see, Castle pioneered the mind-map viral network where implants are stored in people’s heads which means they become human avators and can be played and controlled and manipulated by gross individuals in the privacy of their dank rooms. Castle’s first success was Society, an online simulation game where people put on their best wacky Cosplay shit and stand around in a city square acting like they’re in a Dave LaChappelle photoshoot doing crazysexy stuff (Wow, a Hari Krishna listening to a boombox! A priest running around with balloons! TAKE THAT, SOCIAL ORDER!). Castle’s next game is Slayers, which features prisoners signing up to participate in online warzone death games in order to have their sentences commuted; freedom comes at a cost though... 30 missions successfully completed. It’s all very Running Man/Rollerball basically with death sports providing some sort of quasi-satirical critique on society at large through our valorisation of future-gladiators like Kable. And of course, there is an underground pro-freedom anti-authority rebel alliance with pirate transmissions that interrupt the global cable video game uplink with the face and the voice of their leader... Ludacris!

Speaking of Gladiator, Kable sits in the white-sand prison, letting the soil drift through his hand, thinking of his wife and child in nostalgic sepia-tinged flashbacks, just like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Just in case you weren’t exactly clear what Kable’s motivation was, he also has a tattoo on one arm that reads, “I am right here with you.” I get it; he misses his family and shit. That’s what you call characterisation, dude! When he doesn’t have John Leguizamo as a crazed prisoner popping up and whispering improvised shit into his ear about “how spooky he is,” Gerald Butler is ready for the next round of Slayers and we find out that he is controlled by this wealthy 17-year-old douchebag that stands in his circular Minority Report-styled internet hovel, ignoring various requests from online teenage sluts with respectful names like ‘Kumdumpsters” and buying weapon applications that are not “gay” so that he can perform balletic movements that control Butler’s actions in the game, which is all really confusing because who is actually doing all the work here? Butler or the kid? It’s not really explored in any depth nor their relationship as player and playee (or as someone lamely says, “What are you going to be - a player or a slayer?”) Anyway, there is a gloriously lame poetry-of-war moment where we see Butler killing dudes in the warzone with the douchebag kid superimposed behind him, performing the same Tai Chi gestures in the bullet-time Matrix world they all live in. Then there’s the new future hero of the Slayers, Hackman (Terry Crews), a big black dude who keeps cracking his neck and being insane and visiting Gerald Butler in the showers naked, singing some song about “puppet masters” and “strings.”

The most completely bullshit aspect about Gamer is its attempt to have its cake and eat it too by casting judgement on the sick fucks that enjoy the sex and violence in online games like Society and Slayers. Like we cut to another round of Slayers where Gerard Butler visits the Come to Daddy music video set for a grim battleground of flaming motorcyclists and exploding heads and severed limbs. Then the slow-motion cinematography creeps in and the soft piddly-piano music (seriously they almost play ‘Mad World’) and it’s like “Oh man, ever think about the pain and horror that must happen in war and shit? What a bummer. Must really suck. Onto the next level of Call of Duty: Kill Haji Motherfuckers Dead!” As my colleague Dan pointed out, “This is war-porn basically.” From war-porn to softcore, we also follow Kable’s wife, Angie (Amber Valetta) who is an actress and works in Society basically disconnecting her identity to be controlled by an obese dude who sits naked in his dark apartment forever touching his sweaty skin in ecstasy at the sick shit he makes Angie do. Dressed up like an anime sexbot at a comic convention, we see Angie being sexed on by some dude with a pig-nose and get the close-up of her crotch getting rubbed, thanks to Neveldine/Taylor, and then they cut back to the fat gross dude because he is the type of scumbag getting off on this type of shit, not them, by any means. "We’re filmmakers, dudes, making a profound cultural commentary on internet culture and the fat dudes who whack off to this bizarre crap, not like us at all, who write and directed this shit. It’s a statement, man!" Very fitting for a writing-directing team whose aesthetic can be likened to that of a 15-year-old-boy simultaneously cutting himself on one arm whilst masturbating furiously with the other free hand. Yeah, the internet is fucked, dudes. Real Life exists in the hope of reuniting with your underwritten family or the social issues like Health Care that get two minutes of dialogue when Gerald Butler escapes from the Slayers game and contacts the rebel alliance known as the Humanz who say things like “That’s right, it’s a game! You’ve got to cut the strings, puppet master!”

Other highlights from Gamer include: Butler downing a bottle of whiskey before playing Slayers, then puking up and pissing into a deserted car’s petrol cap in order to provide fuel to escape in an insanely illogical sequence worthy of Crank; a welcome appearance by character actor Keith David as Agent Keith, the FBI dude interrogating the punk kid as to Kable’s whereabouts once he’s escaped; the presence of old video arcade games like Galaga and air-hockey tables at the rebellion’s headquarters because back then you knew when a game was a game; a memory doctor employed to hack into Butler’s mind and see the Manchurian Candidate mind-controlled murder he was involved in; Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia popping up as a weirdo in Society named Rick Rape who wears leather and almost sexes Angie (wearing a red wig and blue underwear so she's basically Lee-Loo in The Fifth Element) before Gerald Butler steps in and breaks Milo’s back over his knee; the final confrontation between Butler and Hall where Hall leads a group of henchmen into a lip-synched dance of ‘(I’ve Got You) Under My Skin’ to demonstrate his complete mind control of other people through advanced ‘Built to Send’ technology; Gerard Butler killing Terry Crews twice, the second time snapping his neck twice for no discernible reason (are you less dead on the first neck snap?); Hall shirtless showing off his ripped pecs and engaging in a Bruce Lee tribute with his beatdown of Butler; then Butler with the help of the kid breaking Hall’s mind control, stabbing him in the gut, reunited with his family, letting all the mind-controlled human avatars free and driving off into the sunset as the title card pops up, ‘GAME OVER.’

There is a lot of bullshit discussion on the Making Of where Neveldine/Taylor, sipping beer cans with the logos blacked out (Hey, we leafed through Noami Klein and shit), framing Gamer as their attempt at a mainstream audience after the success of Crank, which they compared to a constant “punishment” for both the characters in Crank and the people watching Crank. However, they maintain their individuality and personality as auteurs throughout Gamer, particularly a scene where Gerald Butler escapes from footsoldiers into a bizarrio FUTURE RAVE sequence where everyone wears neon colours and dresses like they’re in the 1990s. As laser sights target Butler’s face, stray bullets hit random ravers. We close-up momentarily on an attractive young black girl in a white wig who gets shot and then spectacularly flies across the room with the impact of the bullet and I had to exclaim knowingly, “Ah, it’s a Neveldine/Taylor film!” With a persistent delight in semi-nude attractive female bystanders being violently dispatched during hyper-stylised shootouts, their auteur themes prevail.


s said...

wowwww i hate these guys so much it is incredible. where does their money come from? i hope anything they make is badly invested and they get done for some kind of tax fraud. or just jailed for being awful humans.. someone needs to make that possible please.

ps haha michael c hall what are you doing?

tristan said...

Haha. Yes, I wonder how long producers will give them money since they seem pretty spiteful of the money men and their audiences at large. Haha, yes, they praise Michael C. Hall for his work in Dexter though they don't look like the types of dudes who would watch Six Feet Under ("That stuff is for chicks and gays, dude!"). Hall doesn't look that enthused about it all in his interview clips, but his over-the-top hamminess is one of the film' saving graces.