If you loved “Rollerball,” “ Death Race 2000 ” and their subsequent B-grade remakes, rush this instant to see “Gamer,” which opened Friday. Putting a high-tech spin on those familiar stories, the movie is aimed squarely at connoisseurs of high-concept, lowbrow pulp.
You probably know the plot: In the near future, people control people via brain implants. The obvious applications for sexual thrills have already been explored, but now the public wants violence. In a very real shoot-em-up game called Slayers, death-row prisoners surrender control of their bodies in the hopes of surviving and receiving a pardon.
That, of course, has never happened. But champion warrior Kable (Gerard Butler) and his 17-year-old “gamer,” Simon (Logan Lerman), have a plan to buck the system. Meanwhile, the billionaire genius behind all this ghastly technology, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, of “Dexter”), has even bigger plans.
Oooh, goody! Writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (“Crank”) have great fun blowing things up, people included. Butler is perfect as a piece of barbequed beef, Kyra Sedgwick plays a sexy talk-show host and there are small roles for John Leguizamo and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Hall, as the smarmy Castle, steals the movie with a symbolic marionette dance to Sammy Davis Jr.’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
But “Gamer” works even better as social satire. With half the population manipulating the other, the world has become hilariously depraved: People strip naked in public, rollerblade into each other and giggle over their wounds. And just like on today’s Internet, that busty blond moaning in your ear is probably a fat guy with a keyboard.
There’s also a brief clip of a foul-mouthed newscaster smoking on television. Egad, what is the world coming to?