Haven’t we played this game before?

Tom Andrew

What do you get when you mix the movies “Tron,” “Blade Runner,” and “Minority Report”? “Gamer.”

“Gamer,” co-directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, is a Sci-fi action thriller, which is both political and mind-boggling.

The time is set somewhere in the near future, and the government has given the green light to computer whiz Ken Castle, played by Michael C. Hall (Showtime’s “Dexter”), to implant a computer chip in the brains of some of the earth’s most notorious killers. These inmates have given their lives away with the hopes of getting a free ride out of jail.

How do they do this? Well, once the chip is installed, anyone with enough money can literally purchased the rights to an inmate and control them in a live war zone video game (which is also aired on television like a pay-per-view/reality show event) called “Slayer.”

If the buyer and the inmate can get through the game thirty times, the inmate goes free and the buyer will win the game, giving them national fame.

Gerard Butler (“300,” “The Ugly Truth”) plays Kable, an inmate who landed in jail for murdering someone. Kable leaves behind a wife and child, whom he hopes to reunite with, once he gets to his thirtieth win. His buyer/owner, Simon, played by Logan Lerman, is a 17-year-old wunderkind, and is approached by the leader of a resistance group and convinced to let Kable play his last game on his own.

What happens next will make you wonder just what could really be going on out there in this crazy world we all live in. With computers making decisions for us, cameras seemingly everywhere, and Big Brother keeping a watchful eye on everyone, how long will it be before we are sold on the idea that an installed computer chip in our brains will stop the aging process, or Alzheimer’s disease? And, if that does happen, who will be in control of us then?

Butler, who recently starred in “The Ugly Truth” with Katherine Heigl, turns in a strong performance, but with all of the technical aspects of the film, he is sadly lost in a storm of television snow.

Hall, 3 time Golden Globe winner for “Dexter,” stretches his acting muscles a little more here, leaving behind any trace of his “Six Feet Under” character. Lerman, Ludacris, Alison Lohman, Amber Valetta and Kyra Sedgwick turn in solid supporting performances as well.

Neveldine and Taylor’s direction is really nothing more than a string of videos with music behind it. At times you ARE in the game, but if you wanted to spend 45 minutes feeling like you were playing an Xbox game, then why not play Xbox? Other films have combined live action with video games before. “Tron,” released more than 25 years ago, did a much better job and the special effects didn’t get in the way of the actual film, or the acting.

“Gamer” does work as a decent Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller, but why spend 12 dollars to see something that has been done so much better before? My suggestion: Rent “Tron,” “Blade Runner” or for GREAT mind manipulation, try the original “Manchurian Candidate. “Gamer” gets 6 out of 10 stars.