After the low-budget hyper-mayhem of the Crank movies, where next for writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor?
Big-budget hyper-mayhem, obviously. Gamer invests in creating an off-colour future extrapolated from our increasingly online times. It’s a world where button-bashing and real life have converged to produce Slayers, a brutal computer game that sees spoilt teens controlling flesh-and-blood death row inmates whose freedom is at stake.
The film’s vividly unreal reality is a snug fit for Neveldine and Taylor’s MO: where Crank’s Chev Chelios stretches credibility by performing extraordinary feats in an ordinary environment, Gamer sets the duo free to embrace the absurd without having to worry about logic, physics or believability.
On top of a crazed new world, the extra budget has bought the filmmakers a few more recognisable names: Alison Lohman, Kyra Sedgwick, Ludacris and Dexter’s Michael C Hall, wickedly creepy as Slayers’ megalomaniacal mastermind. Look out too for a cameo by Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia as the unsubtly named Rick Rape.
Topping the bill, Gerard Butler plays living avatar Kable, the game’s reigning champ. After flirting with romcoms (PS I Love You, The Ugly Truth), this is Butler’s raucous return to the ultra-violence of 300 – complete with copycat stylised blood-spurts and saturated colour (taking the directors’ already heightened aesthetic up yet another notch).
Zack Snyder’s fight film isn’t the only influence on show; many of Gamer’s ideas have been explored before in films like Death Race, Rollerball, Tron and The Running Man.
This isn’t the place to come for character development or subtext, either: asides centred on Kable’s family and commentary on the prison and health services are weakly sketched. Even worse, they take precious minutes away from what Neveldine and Taylor do best: pummel you into submission.
It won’t win points for originality or depth, but the Crank boys are still on their game as far as sex, violence and sheer unapologetic excess go. High concept, high octane, highly likely to end up a post-pub staple.