When we talk about what to watch on the best streaming services, we typically talk about the best movies you can watch. But this time, I want to talk to you about an objectively bad movie that is also one of my favorite movies to watch — Gamer. And right now, you can stream Gamer on Netflix, so there's never been a better time to give it a shot.
Starring Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall and Kyra Sedgewick among others, Gamer was set up to be a hit but fell flat with critics and audiences alike, though critics were much harsher than audiences.
Now you must be thinking to yourself, “Why is this guy recommending a ‘bad movie’ to me?” And that’s a fair question. But I think if you’re reading this you can agree that while critics and experts get a lot right, sometimes you can disagree with their takes. And that while some things may be seriously flawed, they can still have value.
So while there are certainly flaws with the movie, I think if you go in with realistic expectations you'll have a pretty enjoyable time with an action movie that's worth watching despite its flaws. I know I still enjoy it every time I hit play.
Treat Gamer like a violent action movie — not something more
So part of the problem, critically, with Gamer is that the movie tries to be something more than what it ultimately is, which is a C or B-level violent action movie. To be fair, I’m not excusing the movie for this failure. Gamer does try to be a critique of the supposed hyper-violence in video games and fails at it. This movie definitely tries to be deep and does not succeed.
What I’m telling you, having watched it for myself, is to push that completely to the side. I’m telling you that it’s really just a fun, 95-minute action-packed shoot-em-up that gets decidedly dark at times, no matter what directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor intended. In fact, if you treat it more like their 2006 film Crank, which is more of a straight-up action film, you’ll probably have a better time than if you view it as some greater philosophical take on violence.
Gamer hits its stride toward the end, which is a good thing
While Gamer stumbles at times — I personally found the Society storyline of Gamer to be unnecessary and at times derailing — towards the end it really picks up. So let this serve as your spoiler warning because I will cover a few details going forward.
So the first half of Gamer is largely the story of a guy, Kable (Gerard Butler), who is trying to earn his freedom in a game called Slayers. Aside from the fight sequences of Kable fighting in the game, which are enjoyable action sequences, this first half to two-thirds of the movie isn’t the strongest.
But in the final third of the movie things actually get good! Gamer turns into a conspiracy thriller and Kable must hunt down Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who has always seemed like the villain of the movie but is now clearly the bad guy. This arc of the movie includes an incredible choreographed set piece where Kable must fight Castle’s henchmen who are all controlled by nanites. The whole thing is set to Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of I’ve Got You Under My Skin and I’d put its balletic violence up against any sequence from the John Wick movies. It’s genuinely one of my favorite scenes in any movie I’ve ever watched.
And again, it’s only 95 minutes. You’re not committing an entire evening to Gamer, just a bit over an hour and a half. It’s definitely not an option for family movie night, but if you want an action movie that you can mindlessly enjoy for a bit with a few memorable scenes, Gamer is well worth your time. I still enjoy watching it to this day, and I’m sure I haven’t watched it for the last time.
Watch Gamer on Netflix now (not available on ad-supported plan)