High School Senior Vee (Emma Roberts) has been living her whole life on the side of caution. Encouraged by her friends to start taking risks every once in a while, she signs up as a player on an online dare game called Nerve where players are set challenges by online 'watchers' for cash. The watchers pair Vee up with the handsome and mysterious Ian (Dave Franco) to complete a series of dares. Each dare has a cash reward but you only get to keep the money if you're the last player standing at the end of the night. However, the dares begin to become increasingly sinister as the night goes on and Ian might be more than just another player.
The tricky thing about movies like Nerve is that when you have an interesting and fresh concept, you need to have a satisfying enough ending to match it. Otherwise you can undo all the good will you may have built up for yourself with the audience throughout the movie.
The opening ten minutes of the film is an exhibition in world building as we're introduced to protagonist Vee (short for Venus), her wants and needs are established (wants to go to college in California, needs to get the backbone to tell her mother) and we're introduced to the titular game, Nerve. By the end of the ten minute period, Vee is already embarking on her first dare. It's great pacing by directing duo Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the pair behind Catfish and final two Paranormal Activity movies.
From here, the movie really kicks into gear as Vee teams up with the mysterious Ian (a likeable Dave Franco) and they embark on a series of ever more dangerous daredevil stunts. The idea is to get more and more watchers as they go and attempt to stay in the game until the end and claim the cash they'd been raking in with each dare. Of course as the dares provided by the watchers become more and more sinister, it becomes increasingly difficult for our central duo.
Despite some clunky dialogue and far too on the nose parallels drawn with online society in real life, Shulman and Joost manage to inject enough energy and fun into the first hour to keep it all running smoothly and this combined with the likeability of the leads make it quite an entertaining watch.
It's the third act however where the wheels fall off as the plot goes absolutely bonkers in a bid to resolve everything and also deliver messages about voyeurism, mob mentality and keyboard warriorism that are delivered in such heavy handed way that you can't help but roll your eyes to the heavens in despair. It's a real shame as it almost undoes all the good work that came before.