The title refers to video gamers, not the role-play variety of gamer like me. Yes, I am a geek, and yes, I am a girl. But I’ve never quite understood the attraction of a first-person shooter sort of game, and after watching this, I understand it even less. Of course, I’m sure that if you play Halo 47 you won’t be treated to the graphic images of legs flying through the air without bodies attached or of heads being blown off, so at least you don’t end up feeling faintly queasy like I did here.
If you remember the 1980’s, you’ll feel right at home here. It is set in the future, but the computers are the only things that have actually advanced. Everything else — especially fashion, though I use the term loosely — has regressed back to about 1984, which is perhaps the filmmakers’ hideously unnattractive way of reminding us of the book 1984. Because Big Brother isn’t just watching us, he’s in our headz, stealing our brainz.
A guy named Ken Castle, Ubergeek (Michael C. Hall, of “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under”), has usurped Bill Gates’ title as the world’s richest man by inventing two games: the first, Society, gave everyone a chance to control a Sim that was actually a real live person. You dress them in little outfits that look like they belong on extras in a bad eighties music video or low-budget sci-fi flick, force them to walk into raves filled with similarly unfortunately dressed people, and make them trade ridiculous one-liners before crawling off to bed together. The hapless Sims, you see, are being paid to let Castle’s little nanite things run around in their heads, replacing brain cells with an interface that lets anyone with the cash dance inside your skull. I hope it’s at least good money, but I’m not sure that it is.
Castle’s second brainchild is Slayers, billed by him as the solution to prison overcrowding. Take one death row inmate, offer him the chance of freedom if he can just survive 30 death matches against other equally desperate inmates, add lots of guns, exploding things, and a few half-destroyed city blocks to play in (I’m sure no one was using them anyway), and you have the ultimate cash cow, apparently. Sadly, it probably would be just that profitable in the real world, if we only had the tech for it.
But there are some characters besides Castle! Kable (Gerard Butler, 300, and all I can say is thank heavens this film didn’t slow down to “bullet time” nearly as often as 300 did) is the only man to reach a whopping 27 matches and live, and the world is watching anxiously to see if he’ll be the first to collect on that free pardon. In his case, it’s okay, because he’s not quite the usual cold-blooded murderer you’d expect to find on death row, but I don’t quite get why everyone’s so excited at the idea that someone slated to be executed, who got the chance to fine-tune his murdering skills thirty times over on live TV, will then be released out into the world at large where he can kill anyone who looks at him funny.

Just a small sample of the hideousness that is the wardrobe for this film.

His wife, Angie (Amber Valetta, who was in Premonition), waits faithfully for his return, crying every time she sees her husband’s plight advertised on all the giant billboards and video screens on the buses and such. She’s also one of the unfortunate Sims for Hire, and has fallen into the clutches of an especially greasy and awful gamer who seems to have the worst dress sense of all. The poor woman has to spend half the movie running around in turquoise short shorts and the most dreadful pair of platform boots imaginable — with gym socks with red stripes on besides. Seriously, those Sims all deserve hazard pay themselves. Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes is even there as a particularly horrible specimen of Sim, who got thrown out of the Rave. Thrown out. Of a place specifically designed to let you fulfill all your weirdest and wildest fantasies. Clearly he’s trying to avoid being typecast as a good guy.
Anyway, there’s a tiny group of Robin Hoods (the Humanz), also living in the eighties with their air hockey table and Galaga video games, who are working to stop Castle under the leadership of Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges (also in Max Payne, but we’ll try to forget that); a rapacious news reporter named Gina Parker-Smith (Kyra Sedgwick) who wants the real story at all costs; and a teenage Ubergamer named Simon (Logan Lerman), who is the head to Kable’s hands, as Kable himself puts it.
All added up, it comes out to about three and a half idols. It’s way bloody, but you have to expect that, though I nearly docked them a quarter idol just for making me look at all those awful clothes. There are a couple of other fun guest stars that I won’t mention so you can have the pleasure of spotting them yourself; it’s got techy stuff for the geek in all of us; and lots of death and explosions for those who want a little mindless violence in their Labor Day weekend flicks. Not exactly a movie for the whole family, and the ending is way too pat, but not a bad way to spend your movie-going dollars this week.