From the opening, poorly edited, confusing and discombobulated sequence, I could tell that I was going to be in for a long 95 minutes. Another director(s) that has seen too many music videos and second rate action movies got a chance to make an action film with a hot Hollywood star and made something so unwatchable that it’s tough to even put it into words. Before we even talk about the story, the action, the acting, or the script, the number one problem with this film is the editing. We couldn’t even follow a simple motorcycle ride, from point A to point B without seemingly 100 edits over a 90 second sequence. It wasn’t stylish, cool or creative, it was annoying and amateurish.
The basis for the movie is a well trodden plot in that Kable (Gerard Butler) is forced to play a game that he has to survive in order to get his release from prison. Of course, the game is controlled by an evil corporation, run by Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, who will never shed his Dexter image). All the while, Kable is just trying to find his way home to be with his family. Oh, and guess what? He’s innocent and the game is rigged. You might remember this basic storyline from such films as RUNNING MAN, THE CONDEMNED, DEATH RACE and others. The “twist” this time is that it takes place in the future and people get to “play” the characters as they make their way through the game.
The idea of real people standing in for video game characters is decent, but there’s not much you can do with that and so they have to let Kable go on his own pretty soon. You might also be thinking that this is a good way for the filmmakers to provide some commentary on the greater issues plaguing our society like the effect video games have on our perception of reality, the value of a prisoner’s life, the amount of control people will give up for money, the benefits/consequences of having someone make decisions for you, or any other theme that’s deeper than mindless action and gratuitous sex/nudity. If you thought any of those issues would be addressed, then you’re sadly mistaken.
At this point, taking pot-shots at the script or the delivery of some of the lines might be overdoing it. Of course it was a horrible effort all the way around. It even included some laugh out loud moments where a character would say something with a straight face “well played, Kable” and it would feel so out of place and awkward that you couldn’t help but laugh. They also included a lot of S&M scenes that made me feel like I was watching a sleazy movie and took the audience completely out of the story. I understood introducing that stuff for the other “game”, but they ended up focusing on it when it did nothing to further the story.
However, with all of the problems and amateurish faults of the film, all could be forgiven if the action was at the minimum, fun. But it wasn’t. Not even close. The action scenes were edited so rapidly that many times I had no idea what was going on. Other than Hall, I still can’t tell you who the bad guys were and who/what Kable was shooting at. The whole film is a jumbled mess that couldn’t even satisfy the quota of fun violence or corny action. After this and THE UGLY TRUTH, Gerard Butler needs to fire his agent. He’s a talented and charming actor and he had no place in a film this horrible.