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Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who has hits with the "Sims"-esque "Society" and the bloody "Slayers."

The latter uses hardened criminals as first-person shooters, engaged in an all-out war, in which there are no extra lives. When the game is over, it's over "? generally with a splattered head. Not so for Kable (Gerard Butler), who's considered the game/show's MVP. He's just a few successful missions away from a full pardon. Provided he can stay alive, he's a free man.

But what if he decided to break out instead?

As is the hallmark of the Neveldine/Taylor brand, "Gamer" seems cobbled together from an ADD style of filmmaking. This is not a detriment, but an attribute. With candy-coated visuals, Red Bull editing and amped-up attitude, the movie moves, using pedal-to-the-metal pacing to compensate for story shortcomings.

Although there have been many films of late with similar concepts, from "Surrogates" to "Avatar," this one has a syringe full of unpredictability in its corner. Admit it: You would not expect for the final showdown between Kable and Castle to begin with a musical number to a Sammy Davis Jr. tune, would you?

Fun and flashy, "Gamer" doesn't give Butler a lot to do beyond playing the muscle, but that he can do. Hall, so good in "Dexter," seems to relish this role, chewing up the scenery so much, he's in danger of getting TMJ. It's the kind of entertainment better suited for DVD, where you can rewind the more outrageous moments and pause to soak in all the visual details.

If "Crank" left you cold, I'd steer clear of this one, as it's cut from the same kind of cloth "? y'know, the one with the label reading Anything Goes. The only time this approach rubbed me the wrong way was in Neveldine/Taylor's treatment of their female lead. Playing Kable's wife, Amber Valetta is practically raped by their camera, leaving me feel as humiliated for her as I did Amy Smart in both "Crank"s.

Other than that, I'm game. "?Rod Lott


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