Sunday, July 31, 2016

Movie Review #462: "Nerve" (2016)

Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
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Vee (Emma Roberts), is about to graduate from high school. Normally reserved, she joins an online game called Nerve, where players can win money by completing dares from random, anonymous people online. As the game progresses, the challenges become more and more dangerous, and after being teamed up with Ian (Dave Franco), she realizes there may be no way to get out of Nerve.

"Nerve" is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who have worked on numerous projects together over the years. This is a thriller targeted towards a millennial audience and can best be described as "The Game" meets "Mr. Robot" meets Tinder but without the sex and with the addition of giving out and performing dares for the mobile phone and internet-obsessed social networking age. Despite its similarities to the aforementioned David Fincher thriller, "Nerve" is actually based on a book written by Jeanne Ryan. It stars Emma Roberts as Vee, a shy, reserved girl who doesn't like taking risks. Her much more extroverted, annoying, nagging friend Sydney, played by Emily Meade, recommends Vee play the game Nerve in order to help her break out of her introverted shell. Nerve is a game where random users, called Watchers, dare you to complete tasks in order to win money. The Watchers pay to watch, and the Players play to win. Vee joins the game and starts having fun and even makes a bit of money after she meets Ian, played by Dave Franco, but eventually things start to get too far out of control as the night gets to a point that may take a deadly turn. Now, Vee must find a way to get out of the game.

In an age obsessed with internet celebrities, mobile gaming, and cinnamon and ice bucket challenges, it's not hard to believe a game like Nerve could or would be on the horizon. That being said, just about everything else in "Nerve" takes a massive suspension of disbelief. Characters spit out jargon like 'dark web,' 'open source,' and of course, the ever reliable plot device of being a hacker to compensate for its lack of plot. Luckily for Vee, her best friend Tommy, played by former "Parenthood" star Miles Heizer, is a super-hacker who spends his afternoons on the dark web exploring the seedy underbelly of internet because, you know, we only use 10% of it. Insert eye-roll here. The movie starts out decently as it makes Nerve look like harmless fun for the most part. Vee is instructed to go to a certain location and has to kiss a stranger, Ian, and then they have to go together to the city. Once there, she is instructed to try on a dress at Bergdorf's, but they get all of their stuff stolen and need to leave the store. Over half of the dares are disclosed in the promotional material for the film, which is quite a bummer because it could have been much more thrilling without so much divulged in TV spots and trailers. Of course, as the movie progresses, some of the kids involved exclaim, "I heard someone died playing Nerve last year," which so far makes it half as dangerous as Pokemon Go. It's in the third act where this movie really goes off the rails. It starts to get so far-fetched and so stupid that it may completely lose you as a viewer, not from a convoluted plot, but from the vast overabundance of contrivances.

"Nerve" is not a complete and total loss. There are some entertaining moments and it definitely isn't boring, but the instances of horribly contrived and convenient-to-the-plot happenings makes it a little hard to digest as a serious movie. It doesn't take enough risks to be a classic thriller and it's too exposition-heavy to be a mystery. Though we can appreciate the anti internet bullying message it has, we feel like the film makes the game feel compelling and irresistible while simultaneously shunning and shaming those who take part actively, whether behind an anonymous screen name or as part of the collective group. All in all, this is a rental at best.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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