July 25, 2016 Beta Test (Movie Review)
There have been a number of outstanding, young, talented writers and directors already showcasing films in 2016, and Nicholas Gyeney (The Penitent Man 2010, Matt’s Chance 2013) is among them. At a young age, his father heavily influenced his love of movies. After his father’s tragic death, Gyeney delved into the movie world, discovering his passion for making his own. With that said, his latest effort, entitled Beta Test, is perhaps his best work to date. With shades of 1982’s Tron, 2005’s Doom, and 2009’s Gamer, Beta Test hits approximately fifteen US theaters via AMC on July 22nd. Produced by Mirror Images Ltd. (The Penitent Man 2010, Matt’s Chance 2013), filming took place in Seattle, Washington, which is also where the events occur.
The story begins with Kincaid (Linden Ashby: Army Wives series, Teen Wolf series), the CEO of global game developer Sentinel, declaring in a television interview he wants all guns to be relegated to Video Games only. He hopes to pass a bill in Congress in the future to this effect. Then there is Max Troy (Larenz Tate: Menace II Society 1993, House of Lies series),who is an agoraphobic game tester for Sentinel. Max is sent the new game to test one day, to which he follows Sentinel’s procedures of loading the game and thereafter contacts Tech Support (Brandy Kopp: The Butterfly Effect 2004, Matt’s Chance 2013), whom Max affectionately calls Princess.
Princess informs Max the game is cutting edge, and to follow the rules without deviation. After his pregame ritual, Max sits down and plays, immediately taken in by how realistic the first person perspective is, though finds no game menu. Princess encourages him to continue. Orson Creed (Manu Bennett: Spartacus: Blood and Sand series, Arrow series) is a former employee of Sentinel, and wakes to find his wife Abbie (Sara Coates: Her Story 2015, Z Nations series) kidnapped, a strange device stuck to the nape of his neck, and he is unable to control his own movements. A series of phone messages reveals he must follow Sentinel’s demands delivered via his ex-friend Zane (Kevon Stover: Sweet Ninja Brown 2010, Sanctioned to Die 2011) or Abbie will be killed.
Max’s player receives a message with his first objective, to steal money and kill a bunch of bank robbers while the robbery is in progress. The complexity of the situation excites Max, and he expertly leads his avatar through the bank to successfully complete the mission. Simultaneously, Creed receives the same message and finds himself taking out bank robbers and escaping unscathed. Max attempts to pause the game while he gets some food from the adjoining kitchen, where the TV news is playing. The news anchor reports of a brazen bank robbery where Orson Creed appeared and saved many hostages but also disappeared with the money.
At this point Max realizes there is something bizarre going on and demands an explanation from Princess. He receives an explanation from Zane instead, if he doesn’t continue with the game, Max and Princess will both be killed. A number of Sentinel soldiers alongside the Surgeon (Yuji Okumoto: Z Nation 2014, Black Thread 2015) place themselves outside Max’s home to ensure he does not stop. The next mission proves both morally and personally challenging to both Max and Creed. The men are pushed past their limits with no control over the situation. Despite wanting to quit, Max must keep playing, but at some point realizes he needs help. Coming to this realization, he must push past his own fears to contact Creed, and together they use the game against Kincaid.
Aside from the gripping story of Beta Test, the cinematography by Michael Boydstun (Biz Kid$ 2008-2012, The (206) series), is superb. The viewer’s perspective changes from first, to second, and third seamlessly, taking the viewer along for the ride. When Max is playing the game, the viewer is completely immersed within the characters and story, and finds themselves looking around corners with him. It offers a unique and innovative viewing experience set to change fan’s expectations.
In addition, Beta Test is packed full of action, and Bennett kills it as Creed. His ability to shift between being controlled and on his own is incredible. The one liner’s top off the action scenes, and, in fact, the film has the record for the largest fight scene in a movie. The scene shot in Seattle’s City Hall involved Creed single handedly fighting off 16 enemies, in a single take. One of the final action scenes involving a sword fight between Creed and Kincaid was shot on the roof of the historic Dexter-Horton building in downtown Seattle. Gyeney fully expressed and utilized his love of his home town.
Beta Test is leagues ahead of most, if not all Video on Demand films, and could easily be considered a competitor on a grander scale in the theater. Gyeney is a writer/director to watch in the future if Beta Test is anything to go by. All that said, this is a must watch for all Action/Gamer fans. CrypticRock.com gives Beta Test 5 out of 5 stars.