The "Gladiator Plot" is my least favourite of all cliched story plots, and so it was with a sinking feeling of dismay that I realised that that was what Neveldine/Taylor had resorted to as a directorial follow up to their excellent Crank. Crank was one of the best action films of last decade - it was like everything that every other action film pretended to be, but wasn't. It was like Run Lola Run on speed, which I'm fairly sure everyone had assumed was impossible. But more than all that, it had an inate sense of fun. It enjoyed its own ridiculousness, it revelled in it. It refused to let the audience ignore the fact that what they were watching was both insane, and very, very entertaining. Gamer decided to ignore all of this, and to try to make its audience feel guilty for enjoying it.
The "Gladiator Plot". Never has a plot been so ill-conceived, and so over-used. Why would you claim that enjoyment of visceral action is a bad thing, if that is exactly what you are providing me with? What is that supposed to mean? Why are you directing action movies, if you hate them so much? Why did you discard the joy of ridiculous film making, and replace it with the exact same level of frenetic energy, except with the intention of making me not enjoy myself? Yes, I understand, it is a satire, but of what? Of itself? What is the point of that?
Let me explain my problem with this movie by dissecting one of its most memorable images - the sweaty naked fat man eating waffles and playing video games. First of all, this is an intentionally unpleasant image, that is supposed to make me feel revulsion. Okay, so I am supposed to be revolted by the idea of a video gamer. It is, I think, also supposed to be funny, in its disgustingness. So I am supposed to laugh at the idea of the video gamer. But what is it about video gamers that Neveldine/Taylor find so disgusting, and humorous? I mean, apart from the fact that they are naked fat men eating waffles? I mean, of course you could argue that the reason this man is portrayed as disgusting is not becuase he is a video gamer in the contemporary sense, but that he is such a loathsome person that he is okay with enslaving other people for his own entertainment. But this is obviously meant to be taken as a metaphor for gaming as it currently is - the use of the naked fat man is supposed to evoke in us images of people we have seen on the news and whatnot who spend their entire lives doing nothing but playing video games. So, are they trying to claim that contemporary gaming is tantamount to slavery? That those computer generated icons are people too, and we should respect them? What is the point? If you are going to show me an image as disgusting and unpleasant as a naked fat man eating waffles, you better have a damn good reason. Otherwise, your movie is just disgusting me, and that makes me like the film less. If I could properly work out the reason behind the naked fat man, then alright. If you were making a clear satirical point, I could accept it. But this film doesn't make a clear satirical point. None of its satire is clear, or focused. It's all just rambling and arbitrary, and most of it is aimed at the target audience for the film. After all, a film called Gamer is going to attract people who are mostly, you know, gamers.
Maybe that is the point of the film, after all. Maybe the idea is to jolt the audience out of its fat, lazy stupor. Maybe it is trying to say, "get off your lazy arses. Stop living fake lives, and go out and live a real one!" Maybe it's trying to say, "stop playing video games, and do something real! You know, like making and watching movies!" Except that it doesn't even say that properly, since one of the video gamers is portrayed as a hero, and his big heroic act is basically playing a video game.
This is the problem with Gamer. It is a film that tries so hard to make you think, but most of what it makes you think is just, "goddamn this was a stupid movie." It wasn't terrible, but the film was much worse than it thought it was.