Gerard Butler must be proud. His crowing achievement in Gamer is getting drunk and then projectile vomiting into the gas tank of a truck… and urinating for the same purpose. He has come a long way from 300.
Gamer is the latest from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, previously responsible for the Crank series. Whereas that frenzied madness fit, in Gamer, that same style is far too aggressive. The idea, that a 17-year old could electronically control an actual human being inside a game titled “Slayer” needs more involvement.
Certain camera shots, literally following behind Butler as he pushes through explosions, are undoubtedly impressive. Unfortunately, the hectic editing pulls the viewer out literally seconds later, failing to establish a time frame or any connectivity to the action, let alone trying to grasp how anyone is controlling this. As people are killed, it feels random, as if a bunch of incidental stunts were cobbled together to create what this movie insists is an action scene.
Tedious action is the least of Gamer’s worries. It tries to be social satire, or even make a statement on societies acceptance of over-the-top violence. Brief shots of snowplows being used to clear the playing field of strewn body parts should be used to showcase the horrors of using human lives. Gamer jumps back into play, with legs and head popped off at will. It becomes the very thing it is trying to satirize.
Gamer has an interesting idea, and behind the vomit gas, legs being splintered off, and techno babble lies a story of how this began. The government sanctioned the game itself, yet it leaves the question of who would elect an official that would find this okay? Were there protests leading up to its launch? That is where the intrigue of Gamer sits, unfounded behind a layer of glossy, frenzied gore that is far less interesting, just sadly familiar. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Gamer was shot using the Red One, a new digital 4K camera. The results are generally stunning on Blu-ray. The crisp, clean images capture immense levels of texture detail. Some shots inside a prison in the middle of a desert (?) showcase fine grain sand even at a distance, despite a contrast that runs hot.
Rich, deep blacks deliver astonishing levels of depth, while flawless shadow delineation works to preserve detail. Gamer features two distinct color palletes, one for the world of Slayer, and the other for Second Life knock-off Society. The latter is filled with incredibly rich, saturated color. Every shade or tone delivers enormous pop without any noticeable bleeding.
Slayer, with its grim, bleak style may not shine in terms of color intentionally, but tends to resolve facial detail better. At times, Society looks flat and smoothed over (probably intentional), making up for the dip in detail with eye popping intensity. Slayer produces those gritty, rough images that produce more to digest. Nearly all close-ups provide a remarkable level of facial detail, including sweat, stray dirt, pores, and small cuts.
In terms of the encode, the down-convert from 4K has produced no noticeable ill effects. This AVC effort does not introduce any notable anomalies by itself. Noise is noted in darker scenes, especially apparent in the underground lair of some hackers. Just past the 50-minute mark, a building shows some significant aliasing. Minimal banding can be caught if you are searching for it, but is unobtrusive given how quick it is to pass. Gamer ends on a jaw-droppingly beautiful shot of a mountainside, one in which each rock and crevice seems to be accounted for. That is what this transfer is capable of, and it lives up to it. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]
Lionsgate goes for a barbaric DTS-HD 7.1 mix, and yes, barbaric is a perfectly suitable term. Action scenes blare with gunfire, explosions, debris, music, and random chatter. All of it remains audible to maintain an immersive, full experience.
Explosions rip the subwoofer apart with the aggressive low-end. Gunfire carries a weight to it that you can feel. Bullets are fired and missed in each channel, those extra rears coming in handy during the extensive action. Those rears also used for cleaner pans, as helicopters fly through the soundfield with smooth transitions. Widely split stereo channels keep an active front alive, including specific gunfire cues.
A rave party late in the film captures the insanity of the event, putting multiple screams in the surround channels and blaring music in all of them. When it breaks down into a shoot-out, the track performs as it has from the opening moments. The soundtrack does become drowned out during a brief car chase, although given the amount of activity which includes a helicopter firing missiles, car tires squealing, bullets being fired, and an engine, it becomes hard to admit this as a knock against this uncompressed affair. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
A standard commentary from co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, joined by cast members Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman, and Terry Crews, is fine… if you’re a traditionalist. The real meat of this disc is Icon Mode, where Neveldine and Taylor walk “onto” the movie, pausing and rewinding while chatting about how specific shots were done (and pulling up behind-the-scenes footage). This plays along with the movie, adding over 40-minutes of total content. Think Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode and you get the idea.
Inside the Game is an excellent documentary, nearly 80-minutes on its own. This drops the usual self-promotion tone for an honest approach to the production. First Person Shooter is a feature on the Red One camera and its abilities, definitely a great promo, but a fine piece on the technical hurdles as well. Another pop-up feature, called Cheat Codes, delivers various interviews during the film, which are not available elsewhere. Trailers, BD-Live and BD Touch support, D-Box, and Meta Menus are the final pieces of this standout collection of bonus pieces. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Extras]
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us by OfftheCliff Productions. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.