From the opening shot, until the final credits, directors Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, famous for the documentary Catfish- which started the hit MTV show, set to create an environment where the game is driving the world our characters live in. They do this using zippy cinematography from Michael Simmonds, featuring text messages on the screen, POV shots of Vee's computer, or usernames with bright colored tags signaling where all the players are at in the city. The dares will cause audience members to hold their breath, especially if you have a fear of heights, or death in general. That's because everyone is playing Nerve, from the passengers in the next car, to the kids standing around Times Square. It's based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan, a Young Adult book, in the vein of a social media Hunger Games. The film swiftly abandons plot and character development, and instead focusing on the game itself, and the competition it breeds amongst the players. The screenplay by Jessica Sharzer starts out charming and intriguing, but fails to stay connected with the two young lead characters, and falls apart faster than a two second snapchat.
Vee is timid and shy, to the point where she can't tell her mother (an underused Juliette Lewis) that she wants to go away to an arts college. She is also in the shadow of her highly sexualized friend Sydney (Emily Meade, often braless and showing her bare butt), while her friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) loves her from afar. When Vee is embarrassed in front of the high school quarterback she has a crush on, it pushes her to be daring and step outside of her comfort zone by accepting the dare of playing Nerve. Her first challenge is to kiss a stranger for five seconds, and that guy is fellow player Ian, guiding her on a night she would never forget. The chemistry between Roberts and Franco is strong. Both actors have proved their talents in other works, and on a positive note, Roberts impresses more with each scene. The two begin with an adorable meet-cute bang, similar to films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or last years DJ hero film We are Your Friends (Also directed by fellow Catfish-er guy Max Joseph). Unfortunately, this adorable moment goes away, as the game story line must progress.
Soon, a mysterious player named Ty (Machine Gun Kelly) inserts himself into the action and pulls the mask off of Ian's history of playing the game for his own gains. Meanwhile, a divide between Vee and Sydney develops as the game destroys their friendship. There may not be anybody left playing though, as the dares turn up to the insane, involving walking on a ladder between two buildings, riding on a motorcycle blindfolded at 60mph, or hanging from a crane above New York city. It sounds intense, which it is, but it's also a point where all logic falls off the rails. Sure, it starts as a friendly night, but goes from Nerve and turns into the Purge.
Nerve progresses to it's wacky ending, and I found myself asking questions, such as, “what is the point of dying for a game? Freedom of choice does exist for these people, right? Does becoming an internet celebrity matter this much? I want to believe our lives are valued for more than just the activity we are doing on our phones, but what's even scarier is that people are this dumb. We are hearing more stories everyday of Pokemon Go related injuries, and we see people walking down the street with their face buried in their screens. Maybe it's best to keep death defying games out of the hands of our citizens. It will take a lot of Nerve. I think we can be strong, but don't dare me.
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: EMMA ROBERTS; DAVE FRANCO; JULIETTE LEWIS; EMILY MEADE
DIRECTED BY: HENRY JOOST; ARIEL SCHULMAN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Nerve is a social media version of “Truth or Dare”, where you become either a player or a watcher. The watchers propose the dares, while the players engage in, sometimes simple, but often death defying challenges for cash. It's a concept that fits the time, with people glued to their phones playing Pokemon Go while they walk off cliffs, or endlessly scrolling through social media feeds. Our heroes are high-school senior Vee (Emma Robberts), who lost her brother a few years ago and plays Nerve to face her fears, and another player named Ian (Dave Franco), who is more than he seems. Nerve is big on thrills, short on brains, and fails to pass any daring tests of intellectualism.