GamerZReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/05/07 16:42:53
(Worth A Look)
Never mind the silly self-mocking spelling in the title. “Gamerz” (an alternate spelling even goes so far as to capitalize the “z”) is a rich, smart look at geek angst at its best and its worst, with the sort of in-jokes and knowing characterizations that could only come from somebody who’s spent a lifetime knee-deep in the thick of dork culture.That somebody is newcomer Robbie Fraser, who wrote and directed this (very) low budget comedy-drama about a “Dungeons & Dragons” style game and the freaks who play it. Ralph (Ross Finbow) is an outcast in his corner of Glasgow, escaping the constant bullying by creating his own world of wizards and monsters. He not only plays the games, but, as the “game keeper,” he invents them, too, creating new adventures all his own. And now, he’s able to quit his lousy supermarket job when he gets into the local university, where he hopes new beginnings will rescue him.
And they do, for a while. A physics class sparks his imagination when the professor talks of multiple universes. A student aide job offers him access to the copier, where he can mass produce the rule book for his latest game. And then he hooks up with the school’s role playing club, which he promptly takes over, but not before quickly falling for Marlyn (Danielle Stewart), a gorgeous goth chick who likes to believe she’s a real elf.
The way Fraser builds the Ralph-Marlyn relationship will be easily recognized by anyone who’s known such types: Marlyn is the girl who loves to flirt with everybody, never aware that her affections may be interpreted any other way than in just good fun, while Ralph is the poor soul who misreads Marlyn’s flirtations and falls fast. Finbow and Stewart do a wonderful job bringing these two very real characters to life.
Finbow also shines in translating the inner burn that grows when things begin to no longer go Ralph’s way. Here’s a teen who, after being ridiculed for so long, was finally earning respect and attention, even from a lovely young lady. And then Lennie (James Young), the drug dealing bully from Ralph’s old neighborhood, strongarms Ralph into letting him join the club. Naturally, Marlyn takes to Lennie, but even more so than just the usual teases - unlike Ralph, Lennie breathes enough confidence and swagger that Marlyn may actually be falling for him, for real.
Hell hath no fury like a geek scorned, and the confused, saddened, maybe even scared Ralph turns to his game to work out his anger, actively seeking to kill off the characters of those he feels have betrayed him. And soon “Gamerz” becomes less a comedy and more a dark character study, with Ralph’s rage growing into an obsession.
And through it all, neither Fraser nor the cast turn a mocking eye toward the characters. Instead, these geeks are treated with a fond respect. They are rewarded, not ridiculed, for their intelligence, and their conflicts are not caused by broad generalizations of the nerd stereotype but of genuine character flaws grounded in reality. Here is a movie that celebrates geek culture while never overlooking the imperfect humanity underneath it.
“Gamerz” is also a celebration of the imagination. As the teens play their game, we see their eyes widen and their minds open up to bold new worlds. They’re truly enthralled by the mere idea of thinking themselves into another world. To help bring that other world to the viewer, the film adds in a series of “shadowplay” animation, with rotoscoped heroes and monsters pasted into lush (yet simple) sketches and paintings of fantasy realms. The game begins to intertwine with the real world, with Ralph becoming a villain of sorts in his own story, and these beautiful animated sequences help the audience link the two.Fraser, working on a restricted budget, gets a lot for his money with those animated bits, opening up the world of his story and making things come across as grander than they truly are. (Indeed, the lone drawback to the movie’s cost is the occasional visual ugliness that occurs when the digital video captures quick movement or a fast camera pan, resulting in an queasy jitteriness. The rest of the film looks - and sounds - top notch.) Of course, Fraser would have nothing without his characters, and by making this a personal story, he hooks us but good. “Gamerz” is a delightful tale that knows more about people than many films ten times its budget.
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