By: Salvador Garcia (Four Beers) –
I identify myself as a gamer (iPhone apps mostly between meetings and on bus rides home) and “leveling up” is an important part of advancing, unlike my career – but that’s another blog.
So, I raise a glass to the concept of the film – which tells the story about Matt, a deadbeat gamer whose girlfriend Anna, played by Leila Mimmack, is kidnapped. Her kidnappers (knitted-ski mask wearing hooligans) keep in contact with him by phone, issuing increasingly ludicrous and dangerous challenges he must complete to keep her alive, forcing him to fight his way across London. When Matt discovers who kidnapped Anna and why, he learns he is part of a game ring on the net where people are betting money on what action he will perform next – like will he kill someone or will he complete a mission like singing a Karaoke song.
When “Billy” refuses to come out to play.
Unfortunately, however great the concept of the movie is – it wasn’t enough to carry the execution of the film – case in point the editing. While some of the running scenes were brilliantly cut to the soundtrack, the scenes where there was dialogue could have been better – as some of the conversational exchanges seemed to linger. Although, there’s one scene where a woman just stands and smiles at Matt, for no other reason than to just stand and smile. It’s bizarre.
Thinking back on it now – it could have been the acting. In any case, there were scenes where it almost seemed like actors were reciting lines and not playing the part. The scene where the drug dealer Keon (Leon Annor) begins accusing Matt of stealing his cell phone has the same line repeated three times, but in an unbelievable way that left me cringing. Matt, played by Josh Bowman, was good at the start – but as the film progresses his ability to carry the film quickly goes down. Whenever he is presented with a challenge, he couldn’t convince me that what he does was the right action anyone would take. He didn’t convince me he cared about his girlfriend. Josh Bowman sort of has a blank look on his face as he says his lines. Painful.
The bad dialogue and blocking of the film certainly got in the way of what was a pretty good concept. I just couldn’t believe that people would take such actions – even in this alternate world where men are scared into doing bad things to other people they don’t know out of fear that someone they love will be hurt. None of the primary or secondary actors conveyed whether in their dialogue or body language the agony they were suffering to be placed in a situation that forced them to be animals.
And, when it came to being animals – even that was flawed. There’s a scene where Matt stabs another man in the arm and the reaction of the other man is like that of the T1000 from Terminator 2 – he just pulls the stake out of his body and stares at Matt running away – as if to give him a head start. However, in the end, you learn the other man is in the same boat as Matt, only he is trying to get his daughter back. And… the entire thing is not believable.
Level Up is a great concept – however, it is flawed in its realization. Enjoy this movie with friends but don’t forget to bring a few beers as it will help you get through.
Level Up (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Matt reads a text message.
Take a Drink: whenever Matt speaks on a cell phone.
Take a Drink: whenever masked men appear on screen.