Spike Lee vs. San Andreas.
Robber: What do you do in this game?
Kid: Rob people. Kill people.
Robber: You think that's cool?
Kid: Yeah. Like my man, 50 Cent. That's what it's all about. Get rich or die tryin'. That's what you're doing, right?
Robber: Never mind what I'm doing. I think I should have a talk with your father about this game.
There's a lot of complicated stuff going on in this scene, and I found myself having a complicated reaction to it. First of all, it's yet another example of videogames shown on film in a visually inaccurate way. The graphics were too clean and detailed for an actual PSP game. Rather, they looked like what they were: some pre-rendered CG trying to pass for in-game footage. This put me on guard, since it's the first sign in any film that the filmmakers aren't gamers. Secondly, there was the obvious way in which Lee was criticizing GTA: San Andreas for its glorification of urban black crime. I think this would be clear to anyone who is familiar with Lee's politics. Bamboozled could be read as (among other things) a rant on the subject. Thirdly, it was a strange contrast to the way the PSP had been shown as blatant product placement in the rest of the film. The kid is never seen once without the PSP in hand, and there are several lines of dialogue, aside from the scene I mentioned, that seem designed only to draw attention to it.
We have a movie where the filmmaker clearly doesn't know that much about games. But the people who hired him want him to sell games to his audience. He shows the hardware, but then he turns the one showcase of software into a suckerpunch at morally corrupt pop culture and bad parenting. You've got to wonder if that was Lee's response to being told he had to feature the PSP.
Whatever Spike Lee intended, I have to admit that I've seen worse. I didn't walk away with the impression that Lee is pro-videogame regulation. The fact that the kid mentioned 50 Cent makes Lee's criticism seem directed more at gangsta culture than videogame culture. And the corrective impulse is constructive: Clive Owen's response is to educate the parent... not do the parent's job for him.
I can't think of many examples where filmmakers showed they understood either the technology or the culture of videogames. Shawn of the Dead is the only one in recent memory, and it was merely showing that games are (gasp!) a normal part of people's lives. I can't think of a movie that used real videogames (which excludes videogame-as-metaphor movies like Tron or The Matrix) to say something positive. Inside Man isn't exactly a step in this direction, but at least it doesn't feel like a step backward.
I guess that's sorta good news.