Film Review: “Nerve”

nerve-posterStarring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Emily Meade
Directed By: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 96 minutes
Lionsgate

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Did kids ever really play “Truth or Dare?” at sleepovers? I certainly didn’t. I grew up in the era where one-on-one conversations and group chat in a circle was replaced by shouting at each over the N64 and trying to decipher the nudity on scrambled HBO channels. So whenever I see the movie trope, especially in horror movies, of a game of “Truth or Dare?” going horribly wrong, I roll my eyes. Who knew a revamp was in order.

Most of the time, “Nerve” is a solid edge of your seat thriller. But at other times “Nerve” seems like a senior citizen’s overreaction and lecture about smartphones, social media and stupid teenage antics. Venus (Roberts) is a timid teenager, who’s known throughout her school as the artistic shutterbug. Her friends are an insipid teenage hacker, Tommy (Miles Heizer) and the school floozy, Sydney (Meade). Most likely one of those groups of friends that met in Kindergarten, grew up together, and hasn’t yet realized they’re bad for each other.

The latest high school craze is the “app”, Nerve. I only say “app” because it’s never fully explained how Nerve actually works. It looks and works like a smartphone app, but also possesses the powers of most Malware, infecting, spreading, and storing all your personal information. In Nerve you can be a watcher or player. The player completes dares and gains followers. The goal is to be the final one to complete the craziest dare. In Nerve, you’re eliminated if you choose not to a dare, snitch, or simply fail at completing your dare.

The clear thing keeping these inept teenagers in Nerve’s snare is the money. Sydney’s dare, which is suitable for the high school tart, is to flash her bare butt at a football game. Easy dare. Easy money. But the dares grow increasingly dangerous and risqué. Venus gets involved after the constant peer pressure and hurtful words of her friends that she never takes risks. While most of the times, I’d call this poor plot structuring, “Nerve” goes to a short, but adequate length to show that Venus is in need of money and in need of a major confidence boost.

“Nerve” follows Venus on her night of dares across New York City. She ends up teaming up with another Nerve player, Ian (Franco) and the two complete dares together. At first it’s light-hearted summer fun at the theater as the two are forced to run out of a high-end Manhattan clothing store in their underwear, but slowly turns into a pulse pounding action sequence the duo navigating a motorcycle at 60 mph blindfolded.

“Nerve” is a sleek techno thriller utilizing America’s current craving for online infamy, naive adolescent sensibilities, and the mob mentality that the Internet has created. If it flops at the box office, “Nerve” is sure to become a cult classic. If it succeeds at the box office, its problems will surely be highlighted. If you begin to get technical about everything, you realize that “Nerve” is in need of some IT support.

In an era where techno babble is becoming common speak and the focus piece of news media, “Nerve” struggles to keep up with some of its more technologically advanced viewers. The movie attempts to name drop things like “dark web” and “Google” in the hopes of glazing over the scriptural plot holes. But it’s fast paced story, neon visuals, Franco and Roberts likability, and thrilling third act keeps you from questioning the structural problems for too long.

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