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Nerve Review

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An online app that seems to be on everyone’s phone, that sees some players get into precarious positions all in the hopes of winning the game. No, I’m not talking about Pokemon Go, but the titular app at the heart of Nerve, a ‘game of truth or dare, without the truth’ where the Players complete increasingly outrageous dares for cash while Watchers fork out money to passively watch their favourite players humiliate or, just sometimes, kill themselves. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who are no strangers to the perils of the Internet having directed Catfish, Nerve is a stylish, sometimes inventive, teen oriented thriller with a refreshing mean streak which sees Vee (Emma Roberts) forced to team with Dave Franco’s mysterious Ian as her game of Nerve pushes her deeper into the game’s dark side.


From the opening frame, Nerve hits the ground running, wasting no time into kicking the story into high gear. Given the proliferation of online apps of this ilk recently, the story is actually really easy to get behind, even if it enters incredibly ridiculous territory as the end credits beckon (sometimes you get the feeling that screenwriter Jessica Sharzer got her knowledge of how the Internet works from Hackers). The story can get downright mean in places, a lot meaner than most teen movies in recent memory, especially when the focus changes to Vee’s bitchy friend Sydney (Emily Meade), furious that Vee is getting more watchers than her. She actually proves to be the perfect foil to our two charming leads, who don’t work up much a sweat here, but prove to be endlessly likable. Proceedings are peppered with neat visual details, from the action being filmed using mobile phones to events presented form the p.o.v. of computer screens, but before long Nerve proves to be all style and very little substance.

The pace never really lets up as the second act ups the ante considerably, and surprisingly it has some smart things to say about how a connected society actually leads to more problems. But we are in a teen movie, and Joost and Schulman play to their target audience a bit too hard as the movie goes on. At the end of the day, the story never goes as deep as it should, just scratching the surface of what the premise has to offer. The choice to provide a tangible bad guy for Vee and Ian to fight (rapper Machine Gun Kelly) just muddies proceeding a great deal, leading to a finale that leans too heavily on shallow moralising and is one that most audiences will see coming a mile off.

Flashy and fast paced, Nerve piles on the style while fudging the execution. It’s a shame really, because there was endless possibilities for this story, but aiming it towards a teen audience limits what could be done with the premise.






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The Movie Bit: Nerve Review
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