The Most 2009 Movie Ever is on Netflix and Worth Watching
Ready Player One meets R-rated themes and B-movie greatness.
There is no movie genre like the 2000s B-movie genre. Inspired by previous indie successes like Saw, there are countless action and sci-fi movies that pushed the boundaries of what was expected — and what was acceptable. One movie truly stretched the worldview of the viewer not for its Black Mirror-like message, but for the bonkers way it gets that message across.
Gamer has everything: Michael C. Hall doing a Joker impression, Logan Lerman controlling Gerard Butler, Terry Crews singing, and lots and lots of nudity. It’s Ready Player One meets Death Race 2000, and it’s streaming on Netflix now.
Gamer is a B-movie gem hidden behind a painfully bland title. In 2034, an eccentric programmer creates a way for humans to control other humans, resulting in two different games: Society, a utopian Second-Life-esque sim, and Slayers, a shoot-em-up whose avatars are death row inmates who volunteer to play in exchange for a chance at release.
Our hero is Kable (Butler), an “i-con” (yes, really) who dominates the top of the leaderboard, having survived 27 “sessions.” Behind him is Simon (Logan Lerman), a player who stumbles onto a mod that allows him to communicate with the man he’s controlling. What follows is a massive conspiracy story with plenty of virtual reality shenanigans.
Gamer’s late 2000s origin are visible in every moment, from the Society actors dressed like scene kids off to a rave, to the green screen effects that evoke a simpler time when characters walking into a void was impressive. But it’s a double-edged sword; the dialogue is equally of its time. In one scene, Simon scrolls through available weapons, declaring them, “gay, gay, gay, gay, r*****edly gay.” And just in case you were confused about Simon’s sexuality, the way Gamer treats bare breasts is the definition of gratuitous.
But all that is more than worth it for the experimental cinematography, where every shot is treated as an opportunity to break a rule and try something fun. Dr. Steve Shaviro, a professor of film, culture, and English, wrote a 10,000-word-long defense of Gamer where he describes the cinematography as “intensified continuity,” a post-1960s style featuring rapid editing and experimental lens techniques.
That’s an understatement of Gamer’s style. It’s frantic, it’s purposefully unfocused, it’s messy, and it feels awesome. Video glitches and rapidly shifting color grading feel weird at first, but become normal with surprising ease.
Gamer’s style is only highlighted by the bonkers performances. Butler is steely-eyed as always, but he’s the straight man to the goofy performances circling around him. Michael C. Hall adopts an indescribable accent and at one point bursts into song. Kyra Sedgwick plays a glittered-up TV host, and even Ludacris throws everything at the wall as Brother, the leader of a rebel movement.
The plot of Gamer doesn’t really matter. It’s there, and it gets the job done, but it’s mostly a vehicle for the glorious acting choices and non-sequitur editing moments that occasionally feel more art house than B-Movie. It’s the perfect dumb flick to watch with friends on a Friday night, and it perfectly captures the endless possibility of 2009, a time when it felt like any movie could have been the next big franchise.
In a just world, this movie could have started a shlocky franchise, and we would have sequels called Gamerz and Gam3r to secure Kable and Simon’s place in cinematic history. But at least we can still fire up Netflix and bathe in the 2000s sensory onslaught.
Gamer is streaming on Netflix.