Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor Release Date: 16 September Review by Alex Bundock While I will freely admit to not having an encyclopedic knowledge of film, I do feel qualified enough to definitively state that you should stay the hell away from a film if a certain large cinema chain's recommendations engine suggests it for fans of DOA: Dead Or Alive and Wolverine: X-Men Origins. Neither films staring 'singer-actresses' stuttering their way through 90 minutes of pseudo-ninja toss, or the celluloid raping of a well-loved comics franchise, will have likely endeared themselves to many. Still, Gamer had promise. The latest vehicle from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, from whose cordite-dusted loins the Crank films burst forth, previews and trailers suggested a narrative that welded your average 'gunz 'n' titz' romp to a glorious vein of penal films past, including the best bits of Running Man's gory kitsch and Escape From New York's minimal grime with liberal sprinkles of future commentary from Matrix style po-faced philosophising to low-rent Cyborg-esque schlock. More specifically, Gamer stars Grrrrrrrd Butler – dialogue is limited in this one too – as Kable, a death row inmate participating in a brutal online shooter with a twist – the players control real people. The goal is simple, 30 wins and the fleshy avatar is granted a pardon and their release. With 26 wins under his belt Kable is the closest any Slayer has ever been to reaching the prize and his escape, but sinister machinations in the 'real world' from the game's creator,evil nerd turned megalomaniac Ken Castle, uber mediawhores out for the ultimate scoop, his snotty little trust-fund controller and a group of anti-Castle rebels (uhrm...Ludacris), all conspire to control his fate. Will he escape and break free his wife and child from servitude? Will he survive? Will he speak? Gamer manages to incorporate the above influences while managing to do nothing useful, original or even coherent with them. In fact, the film is sunk by its central premise of trying to wed some general nebulous Daily-Mail-esque hectoring on mediated experiences to your standard action/shooter chassis. As hybrids go it's less Prius and more PigeonRat. My primary case in point is this: the action sequences in the violent world of Slayers are shot with grainy-washed out filters, muted effects and muffled viscera, as if the audience is supposed to draw some profound conclusion on the nature of disembodied, mediated violence. While the little online shooter tropes that pop up now and again – thankfully more glitchy lag and digital overlays that corpulent adolescents screaming 'nOOb!' - inject some originality into the formula, it can't disguise the shocking lack of boomtime; even the sequences that escape the burden of post-photography seem sluggish, as if living in the shadow of lairy little Stratham. I couldn't help but feel short-changed. The critical stimulus is just as unsatisfying. Evil Ken Castle's mainstream Second Life-ish online product Society sets up an interesting scenario. Unlike the mandatory control in Slayers, the human avatars in the game are employees; they volunteer, are paid for their time in the game and just like their penal compatriots are under complete control once the user begins their session. The initial satirical flavour is also promising; high-gloss and over saturated colours, exaggerated make-up, stupid haircuts and screen names like 'kumdumpstaz' lampoon the banality of the lolset. Unfortunately, the plot in Society evolves through poorly handled sexual exploitation scenes that veer perilously close to peep show rather than critical discourse. Questions on the nature of privacy, the mechanics of online economies and the sexualisation of virtual worlds? Nope, have a screen full of breast instead. Which makes it all the more confusing when some of the most visceral action in the film is a chase sequence through the world of Society in which half-naked clubbers are brutally gunned down. Gamer at it's most titillating is mildly confusing and at worst, plain boring and that's overlooking some heinous dialogue – 'I'd love to breach your firewall!' - and various deus ex machina that propel the plot along. Comparisons to Wolverine or DOA are still harsh, but Gamer is a truly dull and ramshackle beast. The greatest epitaph to Gamer's misfit nature however, and sadly the only truly memorable sections of the film, are the various 'lite matinee' style musical numbers that pepper the film. Fancy a 20st half-naked homicidal maniac jittering around a locker room, giddily intoning about puppets? How about about a troupe of 'beater clad reprobates performing a wonderful Clark Gable style ensemble at the behest of evil Ken Castle. You didn't ask for it, you didn't want it and that's probably the best way to summarise this film.