Video game culture is constantly growing. What previously used to be something relegated to nerds and shut-ins, growing into something that everyone is able to enjoy. And with mobile gaming booming, it seems to be leaping forward even more. Thus it didn’t take long for more and more films to base their concepts on video games. Sure, we had THE WIZARD and MORTAL KOMBAT, but now we are seeing things like PIXELS and WRECK IT RALPH tapping into the family film group. But what about the gamers that are a little older? That’s where UK thriller LEVEL UP looks to fill in the gap a bit, rather than mind it.
Matt (Josh Bowman, ABC’s Revenge) is a lay-about without any form of drive. Happy to do nothing but play video games while his girlfriend, Anna, works all day at a law office. Nothing much can get him going besides playing against his online friends, which aggravates Anna (Leila Mimmack, HIGH RISE). At least that is, until one day, Matt is accosted in his home by three masked men and is told that Anna was kidnapped and will be dispatched if he doesn’t play along with their little game.
That game? To follow any instructions given to him via a provided cell phone, taking him throughout the city performing deeds that range from going to a locked bus locker, to finding a specific girl and getting down to business. Matt confusedly stumbles about each task, but he does what he can to ensure the safety of Anne. As things progress, the lines of reality blur further and further, as he’s not sure who is involved in the game, and who’s just plain interfering with him.
While there are many movies about similar conspiracies and thrilling adventures involving forced involvement, LEVEL UP does an adequate job of keeping you entertained throughout. It doesn’t overstay its welcome at a minimal 84 minutes long. But sadly it also doesn’t add a lot of things to say beside just an entertaining and slightly thrilling romp through London.
When I first saw the trailer, two films came to mind, with David Fincher’s THE GAME and Neveldine and Taylor’s GAMER. While GAMER wasn’t a hugely intellectual flick, it more than made up for itself in visceral action. And THE GAME kept you guessing the entire time until the credits ran. Sadly, LEVEL UP doesn’t have a lot of guesswork behind it after a certain point, and it’s not able to push itself far enough to have left in disbelief of what you just saw. While it touches on video game culture a bit, it could have used even more video game logic to have heightened the intensity as Matt plows his way towards the endgame.
Adam Randall, writer and director, did a solid job for the film being his first feature film. Given the fast paced script and apt way of shooting everything in a cohesive manner, makes me want to see his next project all the more. Despite my minor beefs with this film, I think that he has a strong foundation laid out and could put out some really powerful stuff if given the opportunity.
LEVEL UP is currently available via VOD everywhere September 19th, 2016.