Gamer (film)

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Theatrical poster
Directed by Neveldine/Taylor
Produced by
Written by Neveldine & Taylor
Music by
Cinematography Ekkehart Pollack
Edited by
  • Peter Amundson
  • Fernando Villena
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • September 4, 2009 (2009-09-04)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $40.8 million[1]

Gamer is a 2009 American science fiction action film written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.[2] The film stars Gerard Butler as a participant in an online game in which participants can control human beings as players, and Logan Lerman as the player who controls him. Gamer was released in North America on September 4, 2009, and the United Kingdom on September 16, 2009.


In 2024, inventor and professional computer programmer, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), has revolutionized the gaming industry with his self-replicating nanites that replace brain cells and allow full control of all motor functions by a third party. Castle's first application of this technology is a game called Society, which allows gamers to control a real person in a pseudo community (much like The Sims or Second Life). This allows players to engage in all manner of debauchery, such as deliberately injuring their "characters" and engaging in rough sex with random people. As a result, those who work as "characters" in Society are paid very well in compensation.

With Society's success and huge profits, Castle (now richer than Bill Gates), creates a second multiplayer game, Slayers. The "characters" in this third-person shooter game are death-row or life imprisoned inmates used in lethal battles with real weapons on specially created battlefields. Any inmate who survives 30 matches earns his freedom, while minor offenders only need one match while being limited to a pre-programmed path that they cannot deviate from and not controlled by anyone. The game is known for a lag problem in the game and no communication between the inmates and players, so there is a dangerous delay between the players' control and inmates' responses. Although the players control the inmates during movement, the inmate himself decides when he will shoot.

In Slayers, John "Kable" Tillman (Gerard Butler) is the most recognizable face and the best soldier due to having survived 27 matches, far more than any other participant (no other inmate than Kable has survived more than 10 matches). This marks him as one of the hardest targets and also as the crowd's favorite. Simon (Logan Lerman), a seventeen-year-old superstar gamer from a wealthy family, is the player who exclusively controls him, also gaining fame for playing Kable, but he is mostly a spoiled brat.

While Castle is being interviewed by popular TV host Gina Parker Smith (Kyra Sedgwick), an activist organization called "Humanz" hijacks the broadcast and claims that Castle can use the nanite technology to control people against their will, but it is soon shut down. A faceless female visits Tillman, as he sits in his prison cell, giving him a picture of his family and taking some of his blood (he is told the purpose is to validate the authenticity of the autograph he gives her). Another inmate, Hackman (Terry Crews), taunts Tillman in the prison, threatening his family. Hackman comments that he has "no strings on him", meaning he is not controlled by an outside player, and thus has no dangerous lag, allowing him to fully control his movements and gain an advantage, since he is allowed to think and move for himself.

A file appears on Simon's computer screen (walkietalkie.exe), an illegal mod created by the Humanz that will allow Simon to illegally speak with Tillman within the Slayers arena. After Hackman nearly kills Tillman, Tillman asks Simon to relinquish control during the next match, their 30th. The Humanz intervene again, providing this ability. The stranger visits Tillman in his cell again, warning him that Castle has no intention of letting him live, and that escape is the only option. Tillman asks for alcohol, which she provides. Tillman uses his free will in the 30th match to escape by successfully driving out of the deathmatch arena; the vehicle is fueled by ethanol from the vomit and urine containing the alcohol he has chugged before the match.

After his escape, news outlets report that he has been officially listed as fragged, which saves Tillman but puts Simon in a difficult position: he loses his reputation, is humiliated as he is now labelled a "cheater", his bank accounts are frozen, and he is under police investigation for helping Tillman escape. Tillman is found outside his wife Angie's (Amber Valletta) apartment by the female stranger, Trace (Alison Lohman), whose voice he recognizes as the girl who visited him in prison, and they speed away before Castle's men arrive.

She takes him to the Humanz leader named Brother (Ludacris) and Dude (Aaron Yoo) who explains that the mind control technology can potentially be unwillingly used on anyone, leading to the "extinction of independent thought". The Humanz have created a cure, but it must be individualized for each person, hence the need to take Tillman's blood in prison. Tillman searches for Angie, who has been working as an avatar (known as Nika) for a heinous and obese Society player. After a violent confrontation with security he manages to enter the Society isolated world to break her out. He returns to the Humanz who are able to deactivate the nanite cells in Angie's brain.

When the Dude and Brother examine Tillman's memories, Tillman reveals that he was part of the original experiment to use nanites in the brain. The first person to successfully be implanted with nanites was Tillman's close friend Scotch (Johnny Whitworth). In an experimental session, Tillman (controlled by Castle through the nanites) shot Scotch in the head, which landed Tillman on death row. When he heard about the Slayers game, Tillman volunteered so he would have a chance to be set free.

When Tillman discovers Castle adopted his young daughter, Delia (Brighid Fleming), Tillman infiltrates Castle's mansion to get her back. He locates Castle who performs a song-and-dance number using mind-controlled Slayers as backup dancers, while a screen above plays footage of Castle's men murdering Trace, Brother and Dude. The "dancers" then attack Tillman, who kills all of them one by one. Castle then leads Tillmann to a room with a basketball court where Castle reveals that, whereas the nanites implanted in other people's brains are designed to receive commands, his nanites are designed for sending commands. Tillman fights Hackman on the court, this time defeating him easily by breaking his neck, since Hackman is under Castle's control and unable to fight for himself.

To demonstrate his control, Castle beats Tillman savagely while stopping him from fighting back. Angie and Delia are brought onto the court after Castle reveals that the Humanz have been found and killed. Castle then makes Tillman crawl to his family, trying to force him to kill his own daughter, though Tillman is able to resist. However, Trace and Gina have escaped Castle's slaughter, and broadcast the confrontation on every video screen across the country, exposing Castle and his plans for control. Seeing the broadcast, Simon is able to use his previous link with Tillman to aid him in resisting Castle's control. The interference distracts Castle, and the pair wrestle for control of Tillman's mind.

Now with his control back, Tillman outwits Castle by suggesting that he imagines Tillman plunging the knife into his stomach, allowing him to do so (since Castle's thoughts, no matter how small, create actions), and he stabs Castle. After Castle dies, Tillman turns to Castle's technicians, who release everyone from nanite control upon Tillman's request. They walk away, after one states, "Well played, Kable". The film closes with the Tillman family taking a trip down a country road, ending with the words "Game Over".



In May 2007, Lakeshore Entertainment re-teamed with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the creators of Crank (2006), to produce a "high-concept futuristic thriller" called Game. Neveldine and Taylor wrote the script for Game and were slated to direct the film, while actor Gerard Butler was cast into the lead role.[3]

Production took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a 53-day shoot. Filming was at the Albuquerque Studios and on location around Albuquerque. Multistory sets were built on parking lots in downtown Albuquerque to depict buildings that were blown up in the film, and other sets were built on the back lots near the studios.[4] The crew used special hand-held Red One digital cameras, which allowed the special effects team to begin work normally done in post-production after each day's shooting.[5]

In March 2009, the film's working title was changed from Game to Citizen Game.[6][7] In May 2009, another name change was announced, the new name being Gamer.[8][9][10]


Critical reception has been primarily negative. The film holds a 28% "Rotten" rating from 75 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes; the site's consensus being "with all of the hyperkinetic action and none of the flair of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's earlier work, Gamer has little replay value."[11]

Critic Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News, agreed, calling it a "Xerox of a Xerox" and citing a number of films it supposedly takes elements from, including The Matrix and Rollerball.[12] RVA Magazine noted that Gamer‍ '​s plot was overly similar to The Condemned and commented that Gamer "hates its primary audience" and "tries to criticize the commercialization of violence, even though it itself is commercialized violence".[13]

Cultural critic Steven Shaviro authored a 10,000 word defense and analysis of the film that he posted online, and eventually re-worked into the penultimate chapter of his book, Post-Cinematic Affect (Zer0 Books, 2010).[14]

Box office[edit]

Gamer was not a box office success. It had an opening day gross of $3.3 million and ranked fourth at the box office. In total, the film earned $9,156,057 in its opening weekend. Overall, the film grossed $20,534,907 in the United States and Canadian box office with a worldwide cumulative of $40,828,540.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Gamer (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Clip - Gamer". DreadCentral. January 20, 2010. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Guider, Elizabeth (May 16, 2007). "Lakeshore, Butler to play Game". Variety. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  4. ^ Kamerick, Megan (August 31, 2007). "New film production fills Albuquerque Studios". New Mexico Business Weekly. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  5. ^ Douglas, Edward (November 19, 2007). "On the Set of Gerard Butler's New Sci-Fi Action Flick!". ComingSoon. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  6. ^ "IGN: Citizen Game Trailer, Wallpaper, Pictures, Soundtrack and More". IGN. Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Lionsgate Publicity". Lionsgate Publicity. Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Gamer – In Theaters September 4". Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Exclusive Poster Premiere: Gamer -". Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Updated: Another name change for Game + new motion poster + Trailer on Xbox live". Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Gamer". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  12. ^ Neumaier, Joe (September 4, 2009). "New York Daily News reviewed negatively of Gamer". Daily News. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  13. ^ "RVA‍ '​s review of Gamer". RVA Magazine. September 4, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Gamer". Steven Shaviro. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 

External links[edit]