Timely Cyberthriller ‘Nerve’ Starts Strong Before Fizzling Out

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Given the way the augmented reality game Pokemon Go has become an overnight sensation, the timing for the release of Nerve, a cyberthriller that opens areawide tomorrow, couldn’t be better.

While the film makes use of some clever visuals and constantly switches point of view to capture the action as contestants in the “truth or dare” like game engage in a variety of outreagous stunts, it ultimately settles for clichés about the dangers of technology.

The film centers on high school senior Venus Delmonico (25-year-old Emma Roberts), a shy girl obsessed with taking pictures of the star of the school football team. She actually shoots for her school newspaper, so it’s not as creepy as it sounds, but she still harbors something that borders on a fixation, even though she refuses to even talk to the guy.

Her extroverted best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) convinces her to download Nerve, a virtual reality game in which “watchers” instruct “players” to pull pranks in exchange for cash. While Sydney imagines Venus will become a “watcher,” she surprises everyone and becomes a “player.” Her first task: Kiss a stranger for five seconds. After she gives an unsuspecting Ian (Dave Franco) a smooch, the two became partners and drive into New York on Ian’s pimped out Triumph motorcycle.

Predictably enough, the dares become increasingly dangerous, but Venus and Ian boldly go where few "players" have gone, setting up a face-to-face with Ty (Colson "Machine Gun Kelly" Baker), a true thrillseeker who looks like he stepped out of a Mad Max movie with his tattoos and body armor. Ian/Venus and Ty have the largest number of "watchers" so they must meet for a winner-take-all final matchup.

All the while, Venus’s mother (Juliette Lewis) and guy pal Tommy (Miles Heizer) work behind the scenes to try to keep Venus from any significant injury. Tommy teams up with his nerdy friends to try to hack into the game and take it off online before the final showdown with Ty. 

Though the film features plenty of tense moments as Ian and Venus try to satiate the appetite for more sensational stunts, the moralizing at the end detracts from the adrenaline rush it delivers in the first half. And while Franco and Roberts have decent chemistry, they aren’t convincing as teens (Roberts is 25 in real life and Franco is 31). And that's not to mention the fact that the actors who played Venus's high school friends tend to be in their twenties in real life.  


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