Nerve Review

Nerve (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

Directors: Henry Joost,  Ariel Schulman
Writers: Jeanne Ryan (novel),  Jessica Sharzer (screenplay)
Stars: Emma Roberts,  Dave Franco,  Emily Meade

Vee (Emma Roberts) finds herself immersed in a Online Game called “Nerve” which is basically a digital version of the game “Truth or Dare” in today’s society where we are constantly pushing the social media boundaries where posting on to blogs etc seem dated with the introduction of live streaming from outlets such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Periscope. It seems everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame and if you can earn some money on the way then all the better.

“Nerve” is primarily that. Vee signs up to the platform after an incident where her “best friend” embarrasses her and Vee realises that Sydney (Emily Meade) is the outgoing one who takes the chances in life and lives her life to the full and it’s totally immersed in the game. Sydney thrives on gaining more “Watchers” (which she says Vee is in real life, wilting in the corner) and hoping to make it to the top of the Nerve League.

The premise of this movie I suppose was interesting enough for me to actually sit down and watch it. Don’t get me wrong it appears that the writers understand where we appear to be going with the access we have to broadcast to the world and the novel by Jeanne Ryan (which I can’t comment on because I haven’t read the book) really pushes the story along on how far we will go morally and ethically.

I have to say though that I felt the acting was a little flat in most scenes and the climatic finale was a little disappointing to say the least.

Emma Roberts as Vee was okay and wasn’t the most offensive two dimensional character in the movie. What probably helped this character was a slight hint of tragedy in her life losing her brother, which isn’t heavily explained but gives you an indication on why Vee is a slight social misfit and a bit introverted. Another addition and weight to this character is to have Juliette Lewis (Nancy) play your mother. Lewis is the biggest star Joost and Schulman managed to cast in what turns out to be cameos in probably three scenes and unfortunately Nancy is written as a Mother who has no clue what her daughter gets up to.

Opposite Vee is Ian played by Dave Franco. You know what you are getting with Franco (although I can’t forgive him for butchering one of my favourite Roy Orbison songs) and I felt he did a great job in the Now You See Me franchise. In “Nerve” he portrays another player whose character is very hard to read (and I’m not so sure this was deliberate) Ian like all players wants to earn as much money as possible in the game and teaming up with Vee appears to characterise him as a bit of a user and just when you are coming round to the character you realise he is setting things up with Vee as part of the “Dare” and again I didn’t like or trust him. In fact Ian only manages to redeem himself in the final scenes (which I’ll get to in a moment)

Actress Emily Meade portrays Sydney as best friend to Vee. To me there wasn’t any good aspects to this character who was bratty, driven by money and attention. What did Vee see in this loser? To be fair to Meade she did a good job in convincing me what a despicable human being Sydney was and just like Ian is redeemed in the final scenes.

This appears to be the common theme in this movie in tying everything up in a pretty bow at the end. I felt the writing for the third act was lazy and convenient into making sure this movie lasted just over 90 minutes. The final act is a stand off between the league leaders in a truth or dare shootout scenario where the watchers vote whether or not one of the players shoots one of the other players. What? Really? Is this where this movie ends up going? In a finale that reminds me of the incorrect morally social cautiousness that appeared in The Running Man (1987) where “ordinary” people suddenly have a thirst for blood and encourage murder this is where I feel this movie falls flat.

Visually the movie is slick and glossy and uses clever graphics for us to understand how the game operates and highlights the players with clever title effect shots hovering over each character at certain points. The motorcycle sequence was actually quite thrilling and although not on the same level as “The Matrix Reloaded” added a bit of action to a rather poorly written movie.

“Nerve” last just over an hour and a half and although it isn’t the worst movie I have ever watched it certainly isn’t one I will be going back to in a hurry.

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