Based on the novel of the same name, Nerve presents a dangerous game of truth or dare live on the internet. However, is it a game that movie audiences will want to play?
Vee (Emma Roberts) is a high school senior who plays it safe and is afraid to tell her mother (Juliette Lewis) that she has been accepted to a prestigious arts school across the country in California. She is goaded into signing onto the online game Nerve by her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade). In the game, users can be either players or watchers. The watchers come up with dares for the players and as players gain watchers, they move up the leaderboard. If a player fails or bails on a challenge, he or she is out of the game. All completed challenges reward players with cash. After Vee is embarrassed in front of a boy she is crushing on, J.P. (Brian Marc), she decides to become a player in Nerve. She and her friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) go out in search of her first challenge. It’s there that she meets Ian (Dave Franco), another player in the game. The watchers demand that Vee and Ian team up and their challenges become more and more dangerous until it’s revealed that the people behind the game have stolen their identities, making them prisoners of the game. Will Vee free herself from the clutches of Nerve? What will happen if it comes down to her and Ian? How did the filmmakers have the nerve to make this movie?
There are some good moments in Nerve and some of the challenges are cool, but the movie is, ultimately, really stupid. Throughout the film, we’re constantly told that the game is “secret,” but it appears that thousands of people know of it, so it can’t be all that secret. It becomes completely ridiculous. The movie also becomes quite predictable, which weakens it as a thriller. The film was based on the young adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, but even as a kind of coming of age film, the movie is terrible. The high school drama is petty and annoying and the performances in those scenes don’t even feel real. Also, due to the nature of the game being an online affair, the movie commits the sin of Bad Movie Trope: “Computers are Magic.” With this trope, computers can solve any problem and certain characters just happen to be world-class hackers. Just another stupid wrinkle in an already stupid film. But hey, it’s not all bad—the movie gave me some decent laughs. Oh wait, this isn’t a comedy.
I liked Roberts and Franco in their roles—they had nice chemistry—but would have much preferred to see them together in a better movie. Meade does well with her role despite the fact that her character’s trajectory is completely predictable. Heizer is fine as Tommy, but honestly, I kept calling him “Duckie” throughout.
Overall, while the premise of Nerve might be interesting, the film squanders it at every turn. It’s beyond predictable and falls victim to several terrible movie tropes. It’s not even exciting as a thriller. Skip it.