First-person stinker ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Monday, September 14, 2009

First-person stinker

My rating:

I don't know why Golden Screen Cinemas brought in this movie at all. (Instead of a few others I could name. Pussies.) Every review I've read says it's a hard R-rated film, full of gory violence, nudity and profanity - everything our Lembaga Penapisan Filem works so admirably hard to keep us from seeing. But, well, I like action movies and I like sci-fi...

...but I also like my head to not hurt, tenkiu.

It is a future in which Nanex technology has developed a means for brain cells to receive remote signals that allow people to be controlled like literal puppets. Its inventor Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has created two real-life "games" that employ this technology - Society, a Second Life-like environment in which "actors" fulfill their controllers' depraved fantasies; and Slayers, in which convicts slaughter each other in FPS-type combat. Kable (Gerard Butler) is the most famous Slayer, and he's close to surviving his 30th game which will guarantee freedom - but Castle has other ideas. And in the meantime, a group of rebel hackers called Humanz enlist both Kable and his teenage gamer controller Simon Silverton (Logan Lerman) in their plans to take down Castle. But Kable merely wants to find his daughter and his wife (Amber Valletta), who pays the bills by renting her body out in Society.

Wow, that's a pretty dense summary. And I'll give it credit for this much - it does a decent job of setting up its premise and the world it's set in. But once the exposition's out of the way, the plot kicks in, and... there isn't much of one. Or at least, not much of one that hasn't been done. Decadent future presided by megalomaniacal villain? Gladiatorial death-games that dangle the promise of freedom which turns out to be a lie? Rebel group that aids hero in overthrowing villain, but then all die so that hero has to fight villain alone? Supposedly super-rich, super-powerful villain whose forces are easily defeated and is killed by one person? Death Race, Equilibrium, Aeon Flux, The Running Man and probably half a dozen others. Seen it all before.

Still, nothing wrong with a seen-it-all-before sci-fi action movie if it offers some fun action scenes, but... oh, the pain. See, I consider myself a pretty "with it" kind of viewer. I am a child of the new millennium, trained to process visual information faster than my forebears. I sat through The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield (okay, that one on DVD), District 9, and all 3 Bourne movies without flinching. And this movie made me nauseous. Directors Neveldine/Taylor's directing style is beyond spastic. Far from putting the viewer in the midst of the chaos - which is the usual excuse for this kind of shaky-cam three-cuts-per-second action - it actually betrays the fact that there is no choreography, no coordination, no planning, no coherency to the action scenes at all. It's just a lot of noise and gore and stuff blowing up.

Now, I have to admit that the censors may have had something to do with this. In fact, I'm pretty sure they did, since it's during the action scenes where the violence is bloodiest. And the absolute most headache-inducing scene is a chase-and-firefight through a rave club in Society, which has nudity and sexually explicit scenes (and strobe lights) to boot. So this may not be entirely the movie's fault. But it can't excuse the fact that, for a movie that satirizes gaming, it's shockingly ignorant about FPS game conventions. The objective of the battles in Slayers seems to be to get to "safe zones", which... um, hello? This is why game developers invented things like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. If getting to a safe zone means you survive and win, why does anybody need to shoot anybody? Why don't they just put down their guns and walk there together??

And it also can't excuse the fact that this movie is ugly. Kable's wife - which Wikipedia tells me is named Angie, something I didn't pick up from the movie itself - is controlled by a sweaty, obese man, and we get lingering, disgusting closeups of his naked flab (he just has to be naked) and his equally disgusting eating habits. The movie just loves to show us sweat and oil and grease, colour-corrected and sharpened to look as gross as possible. But hey, it's thematically appropriate! It's an ugly world, an ugly future! That's why the movie is trying to make you puke! 'Cos it's got a message!

The only acting standout is Hall, who seems to be having fun playing the insanely evil Castle. Butler could play badass action hero in his sleep. I haven't even mentioned Kyra Sedgwick as a muckraking TV host, which brings me to another problem with the plot. She's one of a number of ancillary characters, including Simon and the Humanz leader (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, whose character doesn't even have a name), and... okay, they each do have a story purpose. But they're so thinly developed that we have no idea what motivates them to do what they do, other than that the screenplay demands it of them. They're as much puppets to the plot as the players in Society and Slayers. Huh. Irony.

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor won... well, not exactly kudos, but some reviews of their previous movies Crank and Crank: High Voltage noted that they were smart and imaginative in how they satirized action movie conventions while simultaneously taking them over the top. I've not watched either, and having seen their latest film, I doubt I'm going to. Whatever's smart and imaginative about Gamer is wasted in clich├ęs, by-the-numbers plotting, and tissue-thin characters. Even then, I might've given it two stars, or possibly even two-and-a-half. But this movie... this movie almost made me sick. I don't see why anyone should pay 10 bucks and sit through 1-½ hours of this shit.

NEXT REVIEW: The Ugly Truth
Anticipation level: more Gerard Butler. Whoop-tee-doo


McGarmott said...

I seriously want to know what you think of The Ugly Truth.

Anonymous said...

Why do you bother going to local cinemas to watch censored films when we have RM10 uncensored DVD?

Biggest fan in kiasuland

Deimos Tel`Arin said...

hmmm thanks for the heads up.

i will get the coffee bean edition instead. :D

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