MONKEY REVIEW: Gamer

September 6, 2009

gamerI didn’t realize that Gamer was from the same writing/directing team behind the Crank movies until after I’d seen it. I’m not sure it would have altered my opinion of the movie much, but it would have explained some of the loud, crude and cheerfully morally corrupt aspects of it, anyway. Gamer is a pastiche of The Running Man, The Matrix and both Death Race movies, the original and its inferior remake: Gerard Butler stars as a Death Row inmate who has dominated a globally televised game called Slayer in which he and fellow immates wage armed combat with each other. Butler is on the verge of winning 30 session victories, which will supposedly earn his freedom, but the evil creator of the game (Michael C. Hall, who provides some fun here) has other plans. There are flashes of real wit and biting satire in the movie, along with some big ideas about identity and control in a Sims and role playing game addicted society, but the focus is on big, loud, gory and largely incoherent action. It’s too bad because moments like an unexpected musical number suggest that Gamer could’ve turned out to be a cult film on the order of Death Race 2000. Instead, it plays like something you’d see on late night cable, an acceptable time passer with lots of violence and a smattering of sex that you will probably not remember much about the next morning.

MONKEY RATING: THREE GAMER MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

“Based on the video game” is always a bad sign for a movie, but Hitman is actually not bad at all, made watchable principally by Timothy Olyphant, who invests the bald headed, barcoded assassin named 47 with some sorely needed charisma, humor and a hint of some depth, which you don’t ordinarily get in these kinds of movies. It’s also directed with a refreshing minimum of flash by Xavier Gens, who instead borrows a lot from the Jason Bourne playbook. In fact, Hitman is like a Bourne film with its globetrotting and digital readouts announcing locations, though it’s minus a lot of the brains, and adds on quite a bit more blood and nudity. As for the plot, 47 finds himself double-crossed and on the run from seemingly everyone. Along for the ride is a Russian woman, Nika, played by Olga Kurylenko, whom 47 rescues from white slavery and eventually befriends, against his instincts. Kurylenko is an appealing newcomer, and is another reason Hitman remains watchable. (Unsurprisingly, she’s in the forthcoming James Bond movie, too.) Yes, there are a lot of silly things in the movie, not least of which is his appearance: For an assassin described as a “ghost,” he’s got a pretty distinctive look which hardly allows him to just blend into a crowd. Those things aside, Hitman is actually a pretty decent action film, so I’m giving it two monkeys, though if you’re not a fan of action movies, and definitely not a fan of video game adaptations, then you’ll want to adjust the rating down to three monkeys or so.

MONKEY RATING: TWO (BALD HEADED, BARCODED) MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)