Movie Review: Metal Gamer (2019)

Written, Produced and Directed by Steven Farmer.

Starring: Stephen Farmer, Matt Farmer, Samad Abedi, Dara Anya, Dean Baldwin, Michael Chambers, Scott Fulmer, Isaac Ireland, Jesse James, Patrick Lescarbeau, Michelle Purdy, Austin Silver, Janet Travis

Steven Farmer has done a lot of things in his life, from being a professional fitness trainer to a stand-up comedian and even a filmmaker. Realizing that Hollywood wasn’t necessarily as thrilling a venture as he’d planned and suffering a few bad experiences while there, Farmer decided to pursue the field of independent filmmaking. Metal Gamer, a film about a metal guitarist who decides to dip a toe into the world of competitive fighting games is his first film; which while I am amazed at the completion of a full-length film by a friend, (I cannot say that I know too many people who’ve completed a film in their lifetime) definitely shows that it is a bit rough around the edges and is desperately in need of polish.

I’d sat down to watch the film on the big screen TV with my good friend who is himself an artist and has taken a couple of classes in filmmaking. While watching the film, I noticed that he was getting increasingly upset and he’d later told me that there were dozens of things wrong with the film according to his observation. He declined speaking about these to the filmmaker himself, relegating to write everything down on a sheet of paper. Below, I will discuss his constructive criticisms as I shared many of the same:

In his chart, he describes the film beginning in a massage parlor. The protagonist Jake, meets with a girl who is described as his client. There is no introduction to who she is. This immediately goes into the protagonist meeting up with the first band, who “screws up” to which he gets goaded into playing video games with his brother Ryan, who is very critical of them on a technical level. He then meets up with a friend, who has no introduction and joins a video game cover band to which there is only one small scene and little else. The protagonist then gets a job at a game store where he meets this goth girl. He then meets a massage client, where he finds out that his old boss got arrested. Then one of the funnier scenes come in when he finds that his brother’s girlfriend has a husband. Next, a videogame tournament ensues as he gets fired from the game store and then rolls into strange cuckolding territory in which the massage client has a boyfriend who enjoys that sort of thing. After that, I am left with a series of dots which my friend stated means that the film had gone so far off the rails that he actually lost the plot.

The layout was everywhere and didn’t put enough attention to people and events that you needed to remember and it put too much emphasis on moments that didn’t have anything to do with the story. I will add to that, considering an Uber driver scene that had no place in this movie at all, especially considering how it ended with a woman screaming and no real clue as to whether or not her character made it out alive. A rather bizarre turn for a film that is not billed as horror, but rather, a black comedy. He added that there was no real goal or plot and as indicated earlier, characters were not properly introduced to the audience. An example of this is the massage client, who wasn’t really introduced, so when she popped up later in the film, he said that he barely remembered her. The only reason that I was aware of her is because of who she happened to be in real life and I’ll bring this up again as it is the core critique and issue that I had with the film. It would often cut from the main character in the middle of one conversation to being in the middle of a completely different conversation. Transitions are simply not seamless and this flaw left both my friend and I confused. Sometimes scenes would cut abruptly and we’d just turn and look at each other like, “what just happened?”

He continued, critiquing the sound. There was a lot of of background noise in some areas which could have been filtered out by music or even doing a voiceover instead of capturing the audio in real-time. A voice echo made it difficult to hear the actors and took concentration away from the actors. The filler in the film often overpowered the main story and it seems like too much had been crammed in the film that would not be of any relevance unless you knew the actors personally. This is my main problem with the entire film, because it felt a little too autobiographical.

Steven and Matt Farmer are brothers and they do share a place together, as in the film. Jake, the film’s protagonist is actually played by Matt Farmer a metal guitarist who has been trying out for bands for quite a while. Ryan, who is played by Steven Farmer is a certified fitness trainer who has been trying to make a name for himself for quite a while in the entertainment industry. He’s also very passionate about fighting games. Other people in the film aside from competitiors at fighting tournaments were people that they knew well, in some cases personally. Others are hired actors with film profiles on IMDB.

You might think that doing a film about what you know works, but I feel that was Metal Gamer’s real problem – it felt like a movie for friends and family and not for the standard moviegoer. I knew these people and a bit about their lives, even down to Jake’s seizures which are a real-life ailment for Matt Farmer and the reason he rides a bicycle.

There were defnitely some good bits here, like the scene at the eatery where his brother chided metal in a moment that felt truly genuine, as well as when Jake tried out for Sheep Of Satan and was considered not metal enough. There’s a dozen things I have to say about that scene, but the number one thing I will say in all of my years working in this industry is that he’s right. In my opinion, that is one of the truest observations that can be made about heavy metal, rock, hip hop, pop music and everything in between. I have often stated that artists are selling a product, a band, an image – this is what picks up attention from publicists, record companies and the music media. Many bands are still popular because of an image that they sold decades ago. Looking at the recent playlists totals for Spotify in the realms of rock and heavy metal, you will also notice that even with choice – the same bands that have been selling themselves on an image are still at the top. It sounds incredibly silly and it is, but you have to have fun with it – you make it art. My personal philosophy there is to adopt a character, go face forward into theatrics and have a good time. But make it mean something. People are there to see a performance, a show, something more than just a bunch of people playing instruments on stage – unless of course, you can do it unfathomly well. You have to create an atmosphere and sometimes a bit of silly clothing can do that for you.

I absolutely love the idea of “The Walmart Test” and I think that is the biggest indicator of how much of an image someone has. If you walk into a crowded Walmart and people think certain things about you just from the way you’re dressed, then congratulations – you have a marketable image. Talent will always be cast aside for image unfortunately, but we have only big tech and social media to blame for that. All in all, an unexpectedly potent message.

My biggest letdown with the film however, is the fact that in a film that focuses so much of fighting games, why are we not seeing the screen? Most of the fighting game tournaments merely show the players, not the fighters on screen, which is kind of silly and I think that hardcore fighting game fans watching this would mock it simply for that. When you watch televised tournaments, they often show the screen while we hear the fighters making comments in the background. They talk trash, but you don’t see them talking trash – you see the screen, which is a hell of a lot more exciting than just seeing the people behind it.

The film shocked me when the protagonist simply decided that he didn’t want to go any further with fighting games and simply wasn’t interested despite all that work, sufficing to go back to square one. This makes the entire plot of the film moot, which didn’t make a lot of sense in retrospect. There was no real goal, making Metal Gamer out to be a very long episode of Seinfeld.

I also didn’t quite see as much humor as I would have wanted to, especially considering the fact that Farmer’s last film, a comedy short – was in all honesty; pretty damn funny. Aside from the disputes between Matt and his boss at massage parlor, there wasn’t very much in the way of humor here. Again, the funniest part of the film was when the husband of the massage client went nuts and demanded that Ryan stop contacing his wife. A friend and fellow musician for the band Knee Deep who plays Nasir also had a few performances here, adding to one of the funnier bits of the movie when he criticized people on a dating app to which he was criticized in the same manner.

There are several parts of this movie that could be clipped together to make a much shorter and more concise picture that gets to the point. I don’t think it should have been an hour and forty minutes either, as too much unnecessary filler is unpacked and that takes away largely from what the film is about. Maybe it’s kind of a love story at the end of the day – guy gets frustrated with bands, decides to be a pro-gamer, finds a girl and just decides to dump all that to stay with her? But with all the meandering, it is very hard to discern a direction with this film.

I have had the pleasure of reading three horror scripts from Farmer and believe me, these are actually well written scripts. I’m very critical of horror and was pleased with most of what I’d read. Secondly, they take him out of the autobiographical nature here and into a world where anyone can relate. Horror films appeal to a large variety of people, because they open a world where anything can happen and operate on the flight or fight mechanism within the animal brain.

Metal Gamer focuses too much on a world that only few know, so I don’t think it will be lauded heavily and probably should be removed from the eyes of troll gamers who will meme the living heck out of it because they’re immature and have nothing better to do. The film felt very much like a series of home movies, but I feel that there’s potential here and in the future we could be seeing something a bit more intriguing.

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