Weird Wednesday: Gamer (35mm)
Hosted by Brian Belovarac (Janus Films).
It’s the near future, America’s class divisions are wider than ever, and a technocracy holds the controls, led by the charismatic mogul Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). Utilizing a system that allows gamers to manipulate live humans as their avatars, Castle’s latest craze is Slayers, a first-person shooter in which prison inmates act out the fatal fantasies of their players in exchange for freedom. No one’s won yet, but Slayer superstar and death row prisoner Kable (Gerard Butler) is coming close – and his success has attracted the attention of both an underground resistance leader (Ludacris) and Hackman (Terry Crews), a built-to-kill creation of Castle.
Neveldine/Taylor’s 2009 followup to their rock ’em, shock ’em CRANK series – and their last film as writers/directors – GAMER pushes their hyperkinetic visual style to the limit, immersing and implicating the viewer in its brutal, video game-like aesthetic while offering a critique of digital labor, viral violence, and the prison industrial complex that’s all the more astonishing for being couched in the guise of a Gerard Butler flick. Part Michael Bay, part Michel Foucault, GAMER is a self-critical work of pop cinema that’s ripe for rediscovery.