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Review: Nerve

Roslyn Hull

A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of dares, or challenges, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

If she completes the dare, money appears in her bank account, if she fails she is out of the game. IMDb 

If there are any parents reading who are looking for something to take the teens to, this could be it.

With a PG13 rating it is innocent enough: references to sex, suggested violence, dangerous behaviour shown to have consequences … but exciting and hip enough to be attractive to those who suffer from involuntary eye rolling when the word ‘Disney’ is mentioned.

The idea is not a new one, the perils of computer games dating back to at least Matthew Broderick in WarGames (“shall we play a game?”) and the perils of playing chicken dating back to at least Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s (or cavemen, if I’m cynical). The point of difference, this time, is that you don’t die in front of a few pals and gals on a dirt road but in front of thousands of ‘watchers’ hooked up to the Internet.

I actually thought the story would be about the shady nerds behind the game but the premise is a bit more disturbing: that a community of these ‘watchers’ can manipulate the lives and the actions of the ‘players’. That as part of an anonymous mob they can push other humans to the limit.

The level of immediacy of some of the dares was a bit of a stretch for me (anything decided by committee takes years, in real life) but it was fun at first, and then quite chilling. There are plot holes you could ride a motorbike through but, as a whole, it was pretty good.

The stars – Emma Roberts as Venus (or Vee) and Dave Franco (as Ian, or is he?) – are attractive and charming. However, the grumpy old part of me thought she was trying too hard to be school-girly in the first third or so of the film and he looks a bit too old for her. But I am being picky. Maybe.

Rapper Machine Gun Kelly (or MGK … or Richard Colson Baker) is quite effective as one of the other ‘players’ with the most votes from the ‘watchers’ and Emily Meade does ok as Vee’s best friend. As an Orange is the New Black fan I would have liked more screen time for Kimico Glenn and Samira Wiley though.

The look of the production is very cool – making New York look like an anime city with neon colours punching through the dark. Ian’s motorbike has blue undercarriage lights and another character’s car has red, both of which relate to their online markers.

In the end, it’s entertaining enough and hip enough to get by but it won’t change the face of cinema.

Ros saw this film as a guest of Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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