Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
|Featuring:|| Emma Roberts … Venus “Vee” Delmonico
Samira Wiley … Azhar
Dave Franco … Venus’ partner and fellow player
Kimiko Glenn … Liv
Juliette Lewis … Nancy Delmonico, Venus’ mother
Machine Gun Kelly (Colson Baker) … Ty
Jonny Beauchamp … Gatekeeper
Emily Meade … Sydney
Miles Heizer … Tommy
Casey Neistat … Player / Watcher
Marc John Jefferies … Wes
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|Director:||Henry Joost—“Viral” (2016), “Paranormal Activity” 3-4
Ariel Schulman—“Viral” (2016), “Paranormal Activity” 3-4
|Producer:||Allison Shearmur Productions
Keep Your Head
And I thought the latest mobile gaming trends today were crazy enough. Based on a teen novel of the same name by Jeanne Ryan, “Nerve” brings us into a world where mobile, online gaming is taken to a whole new level. Meet Vee (Emma Roberts), a quiet girl who tends to “play it safe,” yet has some pretty wild friends. She lives life on the sidelines, until she discovers an online game called “Nerve”; a game of “Truth or Dare” …but without the truth. After hearing more and more about this one-of-a-kind game, Vee decides to take the plunge and get involved. She could have just been what they call a “watcher” (anyone who pays a fee to watch the participants of the game). Instead, she decides to become a “player.” After taking on one wild dare, she decides to call it quits. However, after meeting a star player named Ian (Dave Franco), she becomes further submerged into this crazy gaming world. Little does she know, though, that the dares become more risky… and more deadly.
“Nerve” almost has a “Hunger Games” feel to it, as teens take on perilous dares and battle to become the number one player. The story is quite intriguing, and the film’s two leads deliver strong performances. However, seeing both a 23 and 31 year-old playing high school seniors makes the film less believable. The film certainly has its thrilling moments and caught me in suspense quite a few times (to be perfectly honest). The editing is sleek, and the production qualities are quite impressive, including some nice cinematography.
The most bothersome factors to me, though, are the plot holes scattered throughout the film and unexplained elements. The film, as a whole, flows smoothly but numerous pieces just aren’t explained clearly. Perhaps with some stronger direction and more concise writing, “Nerve” would have been a much stronger thriller.
“Nerve” certainly has its content issues, too. The film contains a moderate to near heavy amount of sexual content. Sadly, this makes sense, though, since I’m positive the producers were aiming to attract as many teens as possible to their film. As we see computer screens many times throughout the film, we catch brief glimpses of suggestive images, including some scantily clad women. A couple of crude text messages are seen, and quite a few girls wear formfitting, revealing outfits. There are a few passionate kisses, with one dare involving kissing a total stranger.
Teens party it up in a couple of scenes, and on two separate occasions we see both a guy and a girl slap another girl’s rear. There is also a moment where a cheerleader accepts a dare and flashes her rear to the crowd, revealing that she isn’t wearing any underwear. A couple of quick and crude sexual references are said, and there is also mention of some teens going to a strip club. In a lengthier scene, both a male and female character get their clothes stolen and end up running through a store and out into the street wearing their underwear. A couple is seen making out on a bed, until somebody walks in on them. Although very short and subtle, a guy walks in on a girl alone in a room and attempts to make an unwelcomed move on her. A character walks in before anything happens and intervenes in the situation. One character appears to be homosexual.
The language is moderate to heavy, as we hear close to 10 s-words (once spelled out) and about half a dozen uses combined of milder obscenities including a**, h*ll, d*ck, d*mn, and b**ch. A censored f-word is seen on a bumper sticker and some profanities may be picked up in a rap song. The words “douchebag” and “screw” (said sexually) are used once each, and God’s name is abused 20 times. A couple of obscene hand gestures are made, as well.
The film is more perilous than it is violent. There is a lot of risky behavior on display, as teens attempt life-threatening dares, including walking across a ladder from building to building, speeding on a motorcycle blindfolded, and hanging onto construction cranes on skyscrapers. A guy punches a girl, as part of a dare. We see the punch from her perspective, and then see her injured face (not graphic). A flashback is seen of a character attempting a dare, and he falls off of a building. We also see some videos of dares, including a guy trying to jump a subway track and miss (he hits his head), and a couple of characters attempting to run through a bonfire. Both scenes are seen from a distance and are not graphic. Two more dares include a character laying down on a railroad track as a train passes over him, and characters being dared to shoot each other.
Alcohol content is limited to a couple of party scenes, as teens get drunk and guzzle down beer. There is some smoking, but no illegal drug use. However, images of both cocaine and marijuana pop up on somebody’s computer screen in one scene. Some characters are deceptive and lie on a few occasions, and it appeared that one character had to eat dog food as part of a dare. Characters steal, and one crude scene involves someone having to pass gas in public to complete a dare. Somebody is dared to get a tattoo, and says that her mom would kill her if she found out. We see part of the tattooing process in a seedy tattoo shop. Viewers should be forewarned that this film does not share how dangerous it is to go off with complete strangers.
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” —1 John 2:16 (ESV)
“Nerve” displays consumerism and materialism at its finest, yet in both a positive and negative light. Characters are willing to risk their lives for money and let the technology around them take control of their lives. Should we be willing to do anything for money? “Nerve” veers in that direction, but does share that money isn’t everything, yet relationships are. Hebrews 13:5 shares this:
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (NIV)
Many may be familiar with the phrase “Desperate times, desperate measures,” but God’s Word provides us with reassurance of hope and salvation. One problematic message within “Nerve” is that characters place their hope in the wrong things and don’t really discover where their hope should lie. Sure, in the long run, the characters realize that they need each other and that friendships are sacred. But who provided these friendships, may we ask? An all loving God.
“Nerve” shares a cautionary tale about greed, addiction, and corruption. However, its message is quite light, and not very clear, when it comes to laying out the strong effects technology addiction has on our current culture. The film has a stronger focus on “the cool kids” and that teenage drinking, sex, and partying are the norm for this generation. Many characters do wake up, though, and realize that “Nerve” has literally taken control of their lives. However, our main protagonists simply move on with their lives and don’t really appear to have learned a valuable lesson.
2 Peter 2:19 shares “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
The characters in “Nerve” are enslaved to corruption. Enslaved to technology. Enslaved to our messed up world. Although the film certainly has its valid points in displaying how technology is causing our world to quickly fall apart, it still serves more as a fairy tale to teenage audiences than a cautionary one. I cannot recommend “Nerve” for any audience, due to its mixed messages and content issues shared above. You may want to think twice before letting the kids see this latest teen novel turned to film adaptation.
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” —Mark 7:20-23
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate to heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.