Nerve: Film Review
Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade
Director: Ariel Schuman and Henry Joost
If anything, directors Ariel Schuman and Henry Joost have already plied us with the perils of the internet with the 2010 film Catfish, so it's perhaps no surprise they jump back into the online world with Nerve, based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan.
Emma Roberts is Vee, a shy wallflower of a girl who doesn't want to go to college and who harbours a crush on the high school football jock, who's never noticed her. Living in the shadow of both her boisterous BFF Sydney (Meade) and in the death of her brother, she decides after rejection to join a secretive online game of dare called Nerve.
Controlled by watchers who set dares for money, Vee is sucked into the game, initially propelled by the adrenaline of rebellion and also because of her hunky co-gamer Ian (Dave Franco). But as the games escalate and become more life threatening (shifting from kissing a random stranger to driving blindfolded on a bike in NYC streets), she finds the thrill a little too much - but she's too far in to be able to pull out...
With its neon soaked aesthetics and hyper-kinetic pace, Nerve is another cautionary tale of the internet; a kind of truth or dare game spliced through the prism of Unfriended and The Purge, with elements of Rome's gladiatorial hubris and Battle Royale thrown in for good measure.
Roberts sells the shift from wild recklessness to genuine fear as the stalker level of this warped Pokemon Go style game escalates. Her innocence gels with Franco's solid but one note performance and the pair fast become the heroes of the piece, but side characters ultimately become predictable genre tropes and wither under manufactured circumstances.
From Meade's insecure BFF, Lewis' mum who appears in 2016 to have no idea what the internet is or how banking works to the best friend crush via some of the worst iteration of internet hackers since Hackers (the collective group cries include "Let's take this game down!" and "I spend lots of time on the dark web"), the film's weaker elements come to the fore as the film amps up its adrenaline filled stunts and action sequences as it edges towards its more OTT elements.
Despite a progressively sillier escalation and an ending that relies on Roberts' crowd exhorting plea for the watchers to abandon their anonymous voyeurism and predictably preaching about the perils of the internet, Nerve is an energetic film with a fair degree of verve. Its kinetic pace will appeal to the screen obsessed youth and still manages to fire barbs at those youngsters who possess a mob mentality online.
There's perhaps an irony that its younger target audience who find themselves caught up in crazes like Pokemon Go and the narcissism of online will probably stream this film rather than head to the cinema, but in a world of screenagers, Nerve's cautionary edges and likeable leads, fuelled with its hedonistic pleasures, make it a surprise cinematic outing that's worth logging on for.