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Nerve (2016)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/19/2016

There are some people who are very quick to point out when a movie has pilfered some (or more) of its story from another source, and I am one of those people. Yes, when a film isn't very original with it's plot, I love to call them on it. However, we rarely hear about this happening in the world of literature, most notably in young adult fiction. When Harry Potter became a success, many, many obvious imitators appeared, and I don't recall anyone raising a fuss. The Hunger Games stole from Stephen King and Battle Royale, and yet it became a hit. Even book which bear a strong resemblance to more obscure things should still be questioned. Such as the novel which serves as the source material for the film Nerve.

Venus (Emma Roberts), who goes by "Vee" is a shy high-school student who lives on Staten Island with her mother, Nancy (Juliette Lewis). Vee lets her friends, like the outgoing Sydney (Emily Meade) bask in the spotlight while she takes photos and dreams of going to art school in California. Sydney has been playing "Nerve", an online interactive game in which players earn money by completing dares. Bored with her life, Vee decides to try "Nerve", much to the chagrin of her buddy, Tommy (Miles Heizer). Her first dare is to kiss a stranger, and she chooses a guy named Ian (Dave Franco). The next dare challenges Vee to accompany Ian into New York City. As the cash prize is enticing, Vee agrees. She soon finds herself criss-crossing Manhattan doing all sorts of crazy things. But, Vee soon learns that "Nerve" can be very dangerous.

This is where we run into how and why books and movies aimed at younger crowd can get away with what they do -- they have stories which are just obscure enough or just old enough to not be the least bit familiar to the target audience. The basic roots of the plot can be traced back to things like 1997's The Game. But, it has a lot in common with the 2006 Thai film 13: Game of Death, which was remade in the U.S. in 2014 as 13 Sins. In both of those films, a down-on-his-luck man is offered the chance to make easy money simply by accepting some tasks which are mysteriously delivered on his cell phone. But, as the story continues, the tasks get more and more risky, leading to murder. Was Jeanne Ryan, the author of the novel on which Nerve is based, influenced by these things? I have no way of knowing, but the similarities are there.

But, let's put that to the side and judge Nerve on its own merits. The film decides to turn the tables on convention and offer a female adolescent fantasy for once. Vee is a good girl who does all the right things and, just this once, she wants to take a chance and have an adventure. And just like adolescent male fantasies, we are asked to make a leap of faith and suspend our disbelief. Would someone like Vee really do these things? Can she use the money? Of course she can, but there is a lot of risk involved. The one place where Nerve actually becomes poignant is in the social media aspect of the game. Not only can players earn money, but they are competing to see who can have the most "watchers". This is not unlike the race to have the most followers on Twitter or Youtube, and this aspect of the story should certain ring true with younger viewers. We also see how this part of the game creates a rift between newcomer Vee and veteran Sydney.

Outside of that, Nerve is a fairly standard thriller. We get some mild action scenes and the budding romance between Vee and Ian, but not much else. There isn't much levity here and the third act, where the film really thinks that it's clever, becomes very convoluted and far-fetched. The movie is never as engaging or exciting as it wants to be, but it could have been much worse. Roberts and Franco are good in the lead roles, but its Meade and Heizer who provide the true emotional weight to the movie. The action scenes are well-handled by Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have given the film an interesting neon look. But, like their other film released this year, Viral, Nerve never rises about mediocrity. So, you will press play and you will watch Nerver, but you'll most likely find it derivative or somewhat stale. The bottom line is that, just like the game in the film, you won't want to play it a second time.

Nerve must have a hell of a data plan on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the neon tones, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The neon does create a mildly hazy look to the picture at times, and it also causes some minor bleeding into the image. The Disc carries a DTSX 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very impressive track, as it delivers nearly constant surround and stereo effects during the bulk of the movie. These are well-placed in their respective speakers and bring us very distinct sounds. The in-film music sounds very good and provides palpable bass.

The Nerve Blu-ray Disc contains an odd assortment of extras which aren't easily accessible. You are asked to choose if you are a "Watcher" or a "Player" (just like in the film) and this leads to different special features. The "Watcher" side contains 16-brief snippets, each of which focuses on a different character or a difference aspect of the film. These offer comments form the Co-directors, as well as the cast. "@govball_prankin" (3 minutes) shows people playing "Nerve" at the Governor's Ball Music Festival. "@Tattewish" (3 minutes) is basically a deleted scene. "Player" contains two set-top games and text bios for the characters.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long