18 • 94 mins • 16 September

Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Cast: Gerard Butler, Michael C Hall, Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Terry Crews


Just what’s the appeal of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor? How can they get the likes of Michael C Hall, Kyra Sedgwick and Gerard Butler to sign on to what are essentially straight-to-DVD movies, so loaded with OTT action there’s little room to squeeze in more than the most basic plot and characterisation? Based on the evidence of Gamer, it must be a big cheque.

After making their name with the unhinged Crank films, the brothers have turned their attention to the world of videogames. In Gamer, people can control other living, breathing humans in a freakish extension of current joypad tech One game, Slayers, boils down to The Running Man meets Death Race. Death row prisoners compete in combat, controlled by real-life players. Make it through 30 games and you go free. Butler’s Kable is up to game 28…

Edited with the finesse of a toddler on a sherbet dib-dab rush, the film dashes from one over-stylised battle sequence to the next for the first half. It barely catches its breath in the second, when more of the masterplan of smug schemer Ken Castle (Hall, doing part Barnum, part Bill Gates) is revealed, boasting the sort of stupid loopholes you expect from Bond villains.

Gamer has some interesting ideas at its core, but like a teenager racing through an essay so he can get back to playing Warcraft, it doesn’t bother to expand upon them, more than to say that virtual worlds with real humans might be a bad idea. Thanks guys – hadn’t thought of that. What’s that? You want to get back to that cool shot of the woman’s head being blasted off? Go on, then.

Often frenetic, but never more than mildly fun, Gamer’s an overplayed throwback to ‘80s action mindlessness.

James White