Movie Review: The Gamechangers

Sam Houser (Daniel Radcliffe) front and centre, Jamie King (Joe Dempsie) on the right

Sam Houser (Daniel Radcliffe) front and centre, Jamie King (Joe Dempsie) on the right

Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest and best games of all time. It is also one of the most controversial. So it seems fitting that a movie about it would be controversial as well. Rockstar themselves have called the BBC production ‘random, made up bollocks’ and if anyone should know, it’s probably them, but in terms of entertainment, this film really is excellent.

It tells the story of perhaps the most turbulent period in Rockstars history. The film covers the 3 year period between the releases of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in which they dealt with suits filled by infamous moralist lawyer Jack Thompson. The most famous lawsuit coming when Jack Thompson tried to tie the Devan Moore killings to what he called a ‘murder simulator’ in Grand Theft Auto. Devan Moore had famously said, upon being caught, that ‘life is a video game.’

More controversy would come with the release of San Andreas, when a hidden sex scene was discovered by a Dutch modder, in the code of the game.

The films focusses mainly on the development of 'San Andreas' and the infamous 'Hot Coffee' hidden sex scene

The films focusses mainly on the development of ‘San Andreas’ and the infamous ‘Hot Coffee’ hidden sex scene

In terms of the film, I found the story really engaging and captivating. At times they try to tie it up as a battle between Sam Houser (Daniel Radcliffe) co-founder and president of Rockstar, and Jack Thompson (Bill Paxton). This includes one slightly cheesy, brief interaction, but generally the films works more like two separate stories. Both are very engaging, though I feel like too much sympathy is given to Jack Thompson at times. In contrast, the treatment of Sam Houser seems very harsh. Of course it’s common to have a bit of madness to go with the genius, that Houser  very clearly has, but the film seems to treat him as a maniacal and lonely egotist.  In terms of entertainment, this works brilliantly. Daniel Radcliffe portrayal of Houser is fantastic, especially in his relationship with Jamie King (Joe Dempsie) one of Rockstars co-founders.

Again I side with Rockstar here as it seems hard to believe that Rockstar could go on to create 3 or 4 more masterpieces, if they had such a volatile working life and a leader of such intensity at the top.

The ending frustrated me a bit. I got the impression that the film chose to side somewhat with the Thompson and the lobbyists that want to bring more censorship to art and especially video games. I also thought the portrayal of Devon being sucked into the game was unfair, as the film never touched on what parental issues, or physiological issues that were almost certainly more influential in the murders then Vice City would have ever been. The conversation about censorship is for another blog, but I have always opposed any form of censorship to art whether it be video games, movies or books.

In the end, ‘made up bollocks’ or not, the film is undeniably entertaining, especially if you’ve played the games. The story is an interesting one and the performances are excellent. I’d recommend you watch it for the entertainment value and ignore the ‘based on true events’ side of it.

What did you make of The Gamechangers? Let me know in the comments down below and leave a like if you want, it’s much appreciated.

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2 Responses to Movie Review: The Gamechangers

  1. Great review, I was worried that they would push the moral agenda a bit but it looks like I’ll have to make sure to catch this when (Or if) they decide to air it in Aus.

    • It’s funny because the BBC have been pushing this ‘get into coding’ thing the past week, with a lot of game related content. Then in this they do seem to play up to the ‘violent video games makes you a murderer’ thing.

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