Neveldine/Taylor, the directing brace responsible for unleashing Crank on the world, take their warped worldview online for a crass, loony shotgun blast in the face of respectability. The Running Man Cranked all the way up, the ear-poppingly high concept has Gerard Butler as a death row inmate whose brain is hard-wired to a video game whizz, who "plays" him in an ultra-violent live action video game. If Butler can survive 30 games he wins his freedom, but game designer Michael C. Hall (Dexter himself) has reasons for wanting him to go directly to the grave, without passing go.
Michael C Hall
After the juiced-up antics of Crank and its insane sequel, Neveldine/Taylor graft a bit more story onto their third feature.
Don't worry however: with its nano-technology synching different brains together, spyware programs attached to DNA, and a double dose of bad taste served up with a side-dish of splattered brains and skull fragments, Gamer is still mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
We're "some years from this exact moment" and world peace appears to have been realised, but society is on the brink of cinema-friendly collapse.
With the US government seemingly credit-crunched, tech genius Ken Castle (Hall, Texan twanged and nutso) funds the penal system with revenue from Slayers, the live-action gaming sensation where players "hook up" with death row inmates and battle for freedom through a series of deadly shoot-em-up scenarios.
"Kable" (Butler, grimaced) is beloved from Birmingham to Baghdad, but he and his game partner Simon (Lerman) are targeted by freedom fighter group Humanz, led by Brother (Ludacris) and Trace (Lohman). Can they save the people Castle has enslaved, and reunite Kable with his family?
Suffering from pacing indigestion, Gamer does not pack the breathless forward thrust that makes the Crank movies so groovy. But, while the demands of juggling different plot threads cause Neveldine/Taylor's script to stop-start, there is enough fizzing away here to fuel a dozen I Robots, or a hundred AVPs.
Disturbing scenes in "Society", a Sodom and Gomorrah where the poor and oppressed allow themselves to be remotely controlled by obese pervs, and in which Kable's wife is forced to work, take the "people as puppets" theme to logical extremes.
And although Gamer sprays a full clip of action into the audience, a haunting score and emphasis on physical trauma see the bad boy directors exploring new avenues.
None of which means Gamer is not a good night's entertainment. Frequently hilarious, visually outrageous, and with ambition to burn, it is further proof Neveldine/Taylor should be given a Wachowski Brothers sized budget soon.
The ending may be formulaic, but it'll be Terry Crews' tuneful psycho, an hallucinogenic helicopter street battle, a bizarre cameo from Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia, and Hall's song and dance number while setting muscled goons on Butler that you'll remember when the credits scream "Game Over!"
Load up Gamer 2 soon.