Pros: more intelligent plot than expected, interesting special effects, well done virtual game world (a la Sims / Playstation Home)
Cons: lots of gory violence, noticeable shaky cam, antagonist's storyline not fleshed out, minor nudity
In a future where gamers control actual people, two major forms of entertainment are a Sims style game world and a survival game where criminals on death row fight for the chance to go free. Kable (Gerard Butler) is a convict on death row 'played' by 17 year old Simon (Logan Lerman). If he makes it to 30 wins of this kill or be killed game, he'll be set free. With only 3 games to go it becomes clear that the man who created this mind control technology, Ken Castle (Michael Hall - aka Dexter), doesn't want him to win. Meanwhile Kable's wife is controlled in a virtual SIMS style world where she's forced to do whatever her controller wants.
The story's a lot deeper than you usually get with this kind of film (think Death Race, The Running Man, etc). Because it's not just a story about the convict trying to win the game. The film has more of a societal message, warning against allowing others to control you even as more people in the world find it necessary to adopt the system. And while Ken Castle's motivations aren't entirely fleshed, you do learn why he created the technology and what he plans to do with it. Some of the best scenes were his (I particularly like his extremely creepy musical number at the end).
The virtual worlds were really well done. While I wasn't a fan of the occasional nudity, it was realistic. Watching how Kable's wife and the other 'controlled' people acted, was very reminiscent of Sims and Playstation Home. One of the scariest scenes in the film was when Kable interacts with his wife and she's completely expressionless.
There was some noticeable shaky came and some pretty gory scenes. On several occasions I had to look away, and I'm not particularly squeamish. Having said that, the special effects on the whole were well done.
It's not a movie I'd want to see again, but it was interesting.