Beta Test, 2015.
Directed by Nicholas Gyeney.
Starring Larenz Tate, Manu Bennett, Linden Ashby, and Yuji Okumoto
Super-gamer Max Troy (Larenz Tate) is beta testing what’s promised to be a fully immersive interactive experience by Sentinel Entertainment. He quickly discovers that his in-game actions are being mirrored in the real world by the mind-controlled Orson Creed (Manu Bennett), a mega-tough disgruntled ex-employee of Sentinel. After completing various ‘game’ missions with the help of his real-world avatar, Max decides to take down the Sentinel corporation and diffuse their evil scheme.
Nicholas Gyeney co-writes, co-produces and directs a fun and simple throwback to the action movies of the 80’s with a fun high concept. Gyeney has pitched his film as a cross between Die Hard and The Firm, but its low-budget future-shock setting of a corporation-ruled city conjures both Vehoeven’s Robocop and Cameron’s original Terminator.
It begins promisingly, with slime-ball Sentinel CEO Kincaid (Linden Ashby) in the middle of a timely TV interview about both gun control and the future of gaming. Ashby admirably channels something akin to Robocop’s very own dirtbag CEO Dick Jones here. An apocalyptic montage with some blistering 90’s techno follows (just to remind us that we’re in the future) before we’re introduced to our hero Max Troy, beta tester of the year. There’s a fair bit of reverence for gaming culture, with Max literally worshipping a shrine to Nintendo before embarking on his first mission with the aid of ‘Princess’, a Siri like companion talking him through the rules of the game. One of the largest overall issues with Beta test is inherent to the concept itself, Max is confined to his living room setting, and this necessitates the need to show the ‘in-game’ action and graphics, and while they’re current gen console quality, it’s never more interesting than watching the actual action taking place in the physical world. At times its like watching a dull YouTube gameplay clip.
It’s a shame we don’t get to spend more time watching the real Orson Creed. Manu Bennett is great in these furious revenger type roles, more or less delivering exactly the same performance he delivered in Arrow season 2 as Deathstroke but effectively grizzled all the same.
Kevon Stover is also pitch perfect as the head henchman. Lorenz Tate as Max comes off the worst here, which is a real shame because we spend the most time with him. However, he’s less at fault than Gyeney’s extremely expositional script, which tells far more than it shows also leaving Max with all the worst lines. None-the-less it’s all briskly paced and just about entertaining enough despite these drawbacks.
Luckily, Gyyeney and crew saved all the fireworks for the 3rd act, where they deliver an 8 minute continuous, choreographed fight sequence where Orson dispatches a myriad of both competent and disposable goons. This one thrilling, stand out scene literally saves the movie and elevates it to something fairly memorable.
In conclusion, Beta Test will be remembered for the one astonishing fight sequence that’s worth the price of admission alone but unfortunately, clunky dialogue, uneven performances and a reliance of CG over real action for the bulk of its 90 minute runtime, prevent Beta Test from becoming the mini sci-fi classic it could have been rather than the fun, one watch midnight movie it is.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Mark Bartlett – Follow me on Twitter