The awesomeness of exploitation flick Gamer is going to surprise you. Packed with insane violence, decadent sex, and (yes!) musical numbers, the movie is a blood-dark satire of futuristic videogame culture that will push all your buttons. Spoilers ahead!
Made by sleaze auteurs Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who previously brought you the Crank series, Gamer perfectly captures the horror and appeal of videogames. Set a few years in the future, Gamer is about what happens when biotech advances make videogames completely real. Psychotic inventor Ken Castle – played by Dexter's Michael C. Hall in an inspired bit of casting – has invented a scientifically preposterous form of remote-controlled cell that can replace your brain cells. Inject some of his goo, and your brain turns to "Nanex," a nanotech cortex that gives your brain a unique IP address and lets people control you remotely.
Castle introduced Nanex to the world via a game called Society, which is a thinly-veiled reference to massive multiplayer game Second Life. Filled with ravers and vamps, Society is an alternate world where remote-controlled actors go to be controlled by gamers who sit at home dictating their every move. (In one horrific scene, we see a vamped-up woman in Society who is controlled by an obese man sitting in front of a bank of monitors. As he slurps up a pile of greasy waffles, he forces her to fuck everything in sight.) The game makes Castle unbelievably rich. With a creepy smile, he explains to a TV journalist, "People pay to control, and they pay to be controlled."
Now, however, Castle has released a new game called Slayers. Gamers control convicts in a deadly combat scenario, and game revenues go to maintaining the prison system. The government is a big investor in the game, and our hero Kable (an appropriately badass Gerard Butler) is its biggest star. Controlled by 17-year-old game champion Simon, Kable is on his way to getting out of jail because he's survived so many rounds in Slayers. But, of course, Castle doesn't want Kable ever to get out.
Meanwhile, a group of biohacker subversives called the Humanz are interrupting the Nanex system, sending out pirate protest broadcasts and working on ways to shield people's nanobrains from mind-control signals. They want to help Kable escape and get back to his family. And of course Kable's wife – who works as a fuckdoll in Society – wants nothing more than to get her unfairly imprisoned husband back.
Like Neveldine and Page's previous films, Gamer is awash in the balletic, stuttering violence of videogames. The scenes of combat in the Slayers game are intense, gory, and shocking. This is the kind of movie whose first line of dialogue is, "You fucking teabagged him!" Though we're given ample opportunity to revel in the violence and cheap sex of Castle's gameworlds, we also never forget that an all-emcompassing degradation seeps out of them into the real world. Gamer is intensely conflicted about the pleasures afforded by gaming.
And in the end it's that conflict that makes this movie such a winningly demented satire. The bad guys, covered in gore, sing little songs about how they're about to frag the good guys. A warehouse full of blanged-out ravers from Society get soaked in day-glo viscera when Castle's goons attack. Even Castle has an incredible zombie dance number, surrounded by his mind-controlled videogame-slurping minions, who follow his every little shufflestep because he's beaming his moves straight to their Nanex.
Will Kable escape and rescue his sexbot honey? Will the Humanz bring down Castle? Can anything ever really be resolved in a world where all our brains have been replaced with nanogoo that broadcasts our IP addresses over the Nanex network? These questions, and their resolutions, may be predictable. But every other part of Gamer is bizarre and original, from the ugly-beautiful concept design to the odd relationship that forms between gamer Simon and meatpuppet Kable. Go see Gamer for the lulz, but stay for a burning vision of your fucked up future.
Gamer opens wide across the US today.