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Blu-ray Reviews: Gamer

Originally published in Sound and Image, v.24#01
Last updated 22 May 2011

2009 - Roadshow Entertainment
Director: Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Ramsey Moore and Ludacris

Movie: Picture: Sound: Extras:

Gerard Butler seems to be a very busy man these days. Ably disguising his native Scots accent, he is doing leading roles in three, four even five movies a year. Sometimes he's the boy in a romantic comedy, sometimes he's the voice behind an animated character. But in this one he's a man of action who is trying to right the wrongs he has suffered.

Gamer has very few holds barred, and definitely falls into the action genre, but with an inventive story line. The action is no surprise, since it is the third movie directed by Neveldine and Taylor, the first two being the 'Crank' features.

The speed of the movie and the visuals were definitely 21st century, but the story that underpinned the action was a throwback to the 1970s. 1975 to be precise, which is when Rollerball (the first, real, one) appeared. Except that a bit of the cheesiness of The Running Man (1987) was woven in.

The story has Butler as an unjustly convicted criminal partaking in a program in which he can be controlled as in a video game in lethal fights. His hope is to earn his freedom. The chances are against it.

This was shot mostly on digital (a Red camera) and has that grainy, bluish dystopian look for the most part. The sound design is strong and the picture generally very good, especially the hypersharpness of another virtual world (this one low in violence by high in sex). Just occasionally in the blue parts there was a little banding on sky graduations, but otherwise all was fine.

The movie uses a little more than half the dual layer Blu-ray disc on which it appears. A second disc has a couple of hours of HD documentaries, but these use a little more than 70% of the single layer disc, so there was no technical reason why both couldn't have appeared on the same disc.

The movie has both a crew commentary and a special 'Icon Mode' version which runs 37 minutes longer. This plays in two channel sound and has hooks out from the main movie file to interludes in which Neveldine and Taylor stand in front of the screen, pointing at and discussing aspects of the movie making, rewinding sections to re-show them, and including material that was deleted from the movie proper. The tone is highly irreverent, in keeping with the tone of the movie.

But while this is supposed to use seamless branching out to the inserts and back again, the way it was structured didn't sit comfortably with either the Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player, nor the PS3. Basically, it worked, but it was far from seamless, with pauses and short repeats at the crossover points, and a variation in the volume level that was disconcerting. Still, these were worth putting up with because it was really quite interesting.

Running time: 95 minutes
Picture: 1.85:1, 1080p24, VC1 @ 20.05Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 16/48 3/2.1 @ 2361kbps (core: DTS 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); Commentary (Neveldine/Taylor/Valletta/Lohman/Crew): DTS 16/48 2/0.0 @ 768kbps; English (Icon Mode only); Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 224kbps
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired
Extras: 'Icon Mode' branching version of movie (1080p24, VC1, DD2.0 @ 224kbps - 132 mins); Documentary (1080p24, VC1, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 80 mins); Scene Commentaries: 'Gamer - Cheat Code' (1080p24, VC1, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 41 mins)
Restrictions: Rated (Australian rating); Locked to Region B

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo. This is the graph for the main movie stream:

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