By Jack Dignan
Nerve was released in theatres in the US back in July. It sort of came, went, didn't make a lot of money and everybody moved on. Nobody made a big deal about it in the slightest. The film was set for a September 1st release here in Australia, except nobody here really knew it was coming out. It wasn't advertised anywhere, until out of nowhere, just last week, a shit tonne of posters were put up in literally everywhere. Having missed my screening for this movie last week, I went and saw the film last night on its opening day. It was playing on the biggest screen at my local, rather popular cinema, and yet, it was empty. Until the movie was moments away from starting, it was just me, my friend and two other people. Nobody knows about this movie, nobody is going to see it, and while it's not awful, nobody is really missing out on too much.
Based on the book by Jeanne Ryan, Nerve follows the story of a high schooler named Vee (Emma Roberts). She's great at photography, but when it comes to the rest of her life, she just sort of plays everything safe, never taking any risks and doing everything by the book. Her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) introduces her to an online game called Nerve. You sign up as either a watcher or a player, the players getting money to complete dangerous, adrenaline filled dares. While completing her first dare, Vee runs into a fellow player, Ian (Dave Franco), and the two pair up to complete a number of dares. Soon, however, things take a dangerous turn as the Nerve game attempts to intervene with their lives, and without spoiling what goes down, the game begins to manipulate their every move, both inside and outside of the game.
Brought to us from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the guys behind Catfish and Paramornal Activity 3 and 4, Nerve is a unique and original film that's barely entertaining enough to be considered a good movie, but gets there in the end. It is, by no stretch of the imagination, a great movie. It's flaws galore, and it's these flaws that I will get into shortly, but with some surprisingly solid direction that sometimes varies between great and average, and a cool neon style that's accentuated by the beauty of New York City, Nerve works. Surprisingly.
The concept behind Nerve is fun, unique and fits perfectly on the big screen, and we have author Jeanne Ryan to thank for that. The idea of Nerve represents a lot more than just another dumb computer game, and the film explores these ideas rather well, showcasing both important issues and adrenaline fuelled adventure. There are some pulse pounding moments, as well as some predictable, but still intriguing plot twists. Nothing really comes out of the blue, but when it happens, it's neat to watch, even if you do know how it's ultimately going to be resolved.
Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are both really likeable young actors, both with some quality films (and television shows) under their belt. They're fresh, young talent with long lasting careers ahead of them, and when put on screen together they just instantly have chemistry. The two work exceptionally well together, their fondness for each other bouncing right off the screen all the way from their first scene together, and it's all upwards from there. They just click, their relationship coming across as easily believable, which is better than some more romance-oriented films are able to accomplish.
However, as believable as their relationship was, the rest of the film... not so much. The whole film relies on so many different pieces that just make no sense, and the fact that the characters go along with all of it is just ridiculous. The performances are good, don't get me wrong, but what they're actually physically doing just makes no sense. Oh, this app gained access to all of your bank details and is watching you 24/7 and has seen everything you've ever typed into a computer and you're cool with it? I mean, fair enough, I guess. Each to their own. Don't be surprised when something very, very bad happens to your personal belongings.
It's things like this that happen constantly, and after a while, the illogicalness of everything is too much to handle. It's a painfully stupid movie, and nothing is even attempted to given logic behind it. This is a game being played on a bunch of unshakeable servers and the police are somehow unaware of it being happening. Literally every single person in New York City knows about it, except the police, and that's just something I can't believe. Nothing is done to put a stop to anything, even though there's so many public activities that take place. Everybody just plays it off as being cool, and it's oh so very dumb.
When we get to the third act, the stupidity of everything was going overboard. Everything is done in very public areas with police and civilians surrounding all of the main characters, and there's some really big, noticeable things that happen that nobody sees as being noticeable or a big deal. People wearing balaclava's on trains and buses? Pfft nothing to be worried about, and that's really the only non-spoilery thing I can tell you, but trust me, there's so many more leaps in logic than just that, especially with certain character reveals that happen towards the finale.
To sum up, Nerve is a simple and original idea that's both relevant to modern society and shockingly entertaining to watch unfold. With some good performances and occasionally good direction, Nerve is a decent watch, even if it feels painfully illogical and stupid most of the time. If you don't see this film in cinemas, it's no big loss, but if you do see it eventually, it might surprise you.