After being prodded by her best friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), for never taking risks, Vee signs up to play Nerve. Screenwriter Jessica Sharzer adapts Jeanne Ryan’s novel with a snappy script that makes the characters relatable and charming — not an easy feat for a teen movie.
Rapper Machine Gun Kelly (Beyond the Lights) has a strong cameo as top tier Nerve player Ty. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman capture the excess of a 80s film within a contemporary setting. Michael Simmonds cinematography aids in that bright lights, big city presentation with some fantastic shots above and below the New York skyline. From their experience directing Paranormal Activity 4, the duo knows how to rattle viewers with a POV camera angles to let the tense moments linger well past the comfort level. Joost & Schulman creatively tackle the film’s reliance on mobile devices with mirrored looks at the screen, character check-ins via a map style display and frequent phone perspectives of the action. In a season filled with one disappointment after another, Nerve might just prove to be the surprise of the summer. Only problem is she hasn’t worked up the nerve to tell her mother (Juliette Lewis) she doesn’t want to go to a local college in New York. That’s especially evident in how Meade has more to do than simply being the jealous best friend. MGK has an undeniable charisma and an air of mystery to him making Ty an explosive wildcard.
While they’re not gorging on cocaine and wild parties, the thrill of Internet fame proves in some ways equally intoxicating and damaging. Nerve isn’t the first film to bring the ADHD feel of social media to the big screen, but it’s one of the better presentations. Players get paid for doing random acts proposed by watchers like kissing a stranger to singing in a diner. Franco has a default mischievous look that serves him well here and he glides into the leading man role smoothly. They take social media access to the next level with everyone potentially being a Nerve user.
Those who want a crack at winning the game take ever more escalating and life-threatening challenges.
Roberts, who helped make Scream Queens must-see TV, with her portrayal of a horrid sorority girl, is just as solid as the good girl flirting with her wild side. And like a 80s film, Joost & Schulman make the fun and high stakes tempting right until the moment the bottom falls out.
There needed to be more to discourage impressionable audience wannabees from trying this at home.

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