The Gamechangers, 2015.
Directed by Owen Harris.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton.
The struggle of Houser’s legal feud against American lawyer Jack Thompson, over the morality of the Grand Theft Auto video game series.
Some movies stumble out of the gate and crash to the floor, bashing in their own skull. The Gamechangers is one of those, starting off with a radio host interviewing a fan of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on why it is the most ambitious game ever created. With jarringly forced enthusiasm, the gamer’s praise doesn’t even resemble real dialogue. Instead it sounds like someone who has never played a video game in their life trying to pen dialogue on the subject similar to how most people’s grandparents would describe a game.
That awkward exchange would set the tone for a movie nowhere near as well-versed in the controversy surrounding the franchise (specifically the legal battles between Rockstar Games producer Sam Houser and Christian lawyer Jack Thompson around the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) that it leads on. There is a good chance that when your movie advertises that Rockstar wanted nothing to do with the documentary, it’s probably a load of shit, which is essentially what Rockstar’s Twitter account posted during the movie’s initial premiere on BBC.
@BBC Was Basil Brush busy? What exactly is this random, made up bollocks?
— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 15, 2015
To say that the movie is filled with inaccuracies is an understatement; one major plot point references a sex scene that Sam Houser deemed pivotal to the narrative of San Andreas, when anyone that has played the game knows it isn’t, and that some of the controversy is greatly embellished. San Andreas is depicted as the first game to contain nudity when it isn’t; Indigo Prophecy had already contained a horrendously rendered and pixelated lovemaking scene complete with breasts, so it’s frustrating that The Gamechangers wants to portray this plot point as something that would have kept San Andreas from receiving an M rating. The controversy came from the fact that it was accidentally left inside the code of the game after being removed from actually witnessing.
The script also takes liberties by pointing out that San Andreas protagonist CJ was the first black main character in a video game, which is again untrue and something I disproved in my head within seconds by remembering Shadowman. To be fair, the movie does openly admit that it is dramatizing certain elements, but they are pushing it too far.
Even Sam Houser and Jack Thompson have their characters greatly exaggerated. For some reason Sam Houser is always putting the fantasy genre on blast as something for children, while Jack Thompson has canpy scenes of him kneeling down on a golf course asking God why he has a hatred for the makers of these games and if he should continue his legal attack. Look, Thompson was definitely nutty and it’s no surprise that his license to practice law was revoked, but even I doubt that he spent his free time Googling Sam Houser in a darkly lit room gradually mumbling to himself “Who are you?”
The supporting characters fare even worse; Thompson’s wife is incredibly submissive and just seems to unnaturally support his every move. There is nothing there that even closely resembles a person that can think for herself, and it’s quite scary. Meanwhile, Sam Houser is often portrayed as passive aggressive alienating his coworkers, reminiscent to an amateurish impersonation of The Social Network.
Neither Daniel Radcliffe nor Bill Paxton give engaging performances; they just don’t behave or talk like real people. Some of this could be attributed to the movie’s knack for indulging in exposition, but Paxton in particular has extremely unintentionally hilarious line delivery. If you imagine WWE’s John Laurinaitis acting in a movie you will perfectly understand. Radcliffe is at least enthusiastic about releasing his game without surrendering creative control, but there still isn’t an interesting persona there.
The stylistic touches for the movie also really grate on your nerves, coming across downright offensive to the gaming industry. Anytime someone is shown playing Grand Theft Auto the cinematography has to wireframe their trance-like state from partaking in the violence. There is even a scene where Jack Thompson forgets to pick up his wife from work because the evil game took over his consciousness.
Rockstar was attempting to sue the creators of The Gamechangers during production, and I honestly believe they should continue to do so. At a surface level the movie gets across the controversy, but for anyone actually interested in the subject material this movie is a disgrace. There is admittedly tantalizing material here for a docudrama, but the talent on-board here fails miserably at bringing that out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook