September 21, 2015 by Liza Lou
The Gamechangers is a docudrama that was recently produced and shown by the BBC here in the UK and centres around Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto franchise. I have to say that my knowledge of anything related to these video games starts and ends with watching my nephews playing them so I went in with an open mind and watched this as a piece of drama.
In a blurb written over the opening credits the Gamechangers state that it is based on a true story. It also states that it is unauthorised by the games company and uses court records as its main source. Nevertheless, the film begins at the release of Vice City (number 6 in the series) and charts Rockstar wanting to make a bigger, better and more realistic successor.
Whilst this is happening an American teenager Devin Moore, who is shown as an avid gamer, steals a car and shoots dead several members of the police force. On his arrest he states that ‘life is like a video game’ which is picked up by kooky but somewhat conservative lawyer Jack Thompson, played by Bill Paxton (Frank & Jesse). He brands the video games as sickening and vows to go destroy the company.
Rockstar president Sam Houser is played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and as far as the BBC goes this was obviously a smart choice. Do I think that Radcliffe was able to portray Houser with the ego it seemed to require? For the bulk of the film I was unsure. This is entirely on me of course, but all I saw was Harry Potter with a beard. It turns out however that Radcliffe is a slow burner here and at the latter part of the movie, during the more emotional scenes, I really bought him. Radcliffe does this well.
In complete contrast, the person who I had my eye on from the beginning was Joe Dempsie who plays Houser’s right hand man Jamie King. I knew Dempsie from playing Chris in TV drama series Skins and in The Gamechangers he shines. There’s no arrogance in his character and this allows him to come through as dependable and fair, acted with real honesty.
The film is clearly in three parts and sometimes fails as drama, instead feeling just like a sequence of events, albeit an interesting one. After the first part that I outlined above it does get grittier as Houser learns the full extent of Thompson’s wrath but what I honed in on was the underlying story these two men each driven by their own cause and egos. Paxton plays Thompson with conviction although the film hints that his actions are a religious calling and this gets lost. Instead the two egos battle forcing the viewer to take a personal, moral and political stand point; I just wanted to punch them both!
There are parts of the story that could have done with more development particularly in the case of Thompson. The downfall of the initial case is down to him and the third act has part focus on him being disbarred but none of it is clearly explained. With someone like Paxton in the role, this just seems a shame.
Despite this what is available and viewable has been put together very well. The film held my interest until the final credits despite me knowing nothing about the obviously well publicised cases it showed. What I did expect (and never got) was a classic court room showdown as a finale. Instead most of this happened off camera and the focus remained on the product and aftermath. Doing it this way made it less predictable I guess but was it exciting enough? I’m not so sure.
All in all I did enjoy The Gamechangers. There was enough positive to steer me to the end without much frustration. Is it a true account of what happened? I don’t know but for ninety minutes, it didn’t disappoint me… too much.