Beta Test is a suspenseful, thought-provoking journey of greed, revenge, and the power of the video game in the 21st century. The film’s storyline revolves around Max Troy (Larenz Tate), a Seattle-based video game champion, and game tester who is about to test the latest game sensation from global juggernaut, Sentinel. As Max begins his procedural dissection of the game, he begins to realize this new game is not like any other.
As Max completes new tasks, events in the real world begin to mirror them. Soon, Max uncovers a deep-rooted conspiracy from within the walls of Sentinel, which leads him to discover that the game’s protagonist, Orson Creed (Manu Bennett), is a real man, in the real world. If Max can somehow join forces with Creed, together they have a chance at unraveling this conspiracy before the tasks in the game escalate and overwhelm their city.
What We Thought:
I want to start out by saying I greatly enjoyed Beta Test. It is probably one of the better low-budget/indie action films (or really films in general) I have seen especially recently and especially from here in the US. Even though the plot isn’t anything groundbreaking, the movie doesn’t feel like the same old thing either. The acting was good, Manu Bennett, Larenz Tate, and Linden Ashby really took to their roles well. Kevon Stover as Zane totally reminded me of Vernon Wells as Bennett, from Commando. The dialogue was pretty good, even the proper gaming slang was used, although a few times it did feel a little forced. The camera work was very well done, it really was just perfect for a film like this. Beta Test’s music was done by Julien-K (I was stoked to see them in the opening credits), so the score was excellent.
But, the real hero of this movie is the action. There are several great action sequences in the film, with that 90’s action movie feel. Stunt coordinator Mark Riccardi did his job excellently. Manu Bennett handles all of his fight scenes really well, and pulls them off believably. It all culminates in a long, unedited, single-take fight that goes about 8 minutes. While it is not as good or grandiose as the single-take restaurant fight from Tom Yum Goong/The Protector (which at 3 minutes, 55 seconds, is just about half the length of this one), it is still a pretty impressive fight and doesn’t have that “unedited for the sake of being able to say it was unedited” feel like that one fight from Netflix’s Daredevil series. I wonder how many takes they had to go through before they got one that was good all the way through. After the big fight, there is one more, final fight between Manu Bennett’s Creed, and Linden Ashby as Kincaid. Linden Ashby is a long way from his days as Johnny Cage, but he still keeps up nicely.
As much as I enjoyed the film, it is not without its flaws. The opening credits say “Nothing is what it seems” followed by a bunch of footage of different tragedies and historical moments, like the Kennedy assassination, and the moon launch/landing. I understand that this movie is sort of about a corporate conspiracy, but watching the credits with unrelated incidents that are surrounded in conspiracy theories, really wasn’t a great fit. As good as his performance itself was, I don’t understand why Manu Bennett delivers most of his dialogue like a cross between Liam Neeson in Taken and Christian Bale as Batman. One problem I have with Max’s scenes is, it is not usually fun to watch other people play video games, and as much as it makes sense for the film, having to watch someone button-mash on screen is really not fun, although they did try to keep those sequences interesting. And, as for the game he is playing, I don’t understand the how (ok fine, “because it’s science fiction”) and why as Creed runs around, the world around him is rendered into a game that mostly looks like something from the 90’s, unless maybe that was to tie into the 90’s style action? Speaking of the game footage, there was some action that we see happen “in the game” with those 90’s style graphics, instead of actually really getting to see the action, and that is a shame. As well shot as everything was, I am sure those scenes would have been great! One thing that annoyed me a little is while running around, and fighting, Creed’s goofy coke bottle glasses (which don’t really fit the rest of the look the character has) never fall off his face, or even shift out of place, until they are punched off his face just before the aforementioned 8 minute fight.
I highly recommend this film. It is fun and entertaining and the fights are great. It is definitely one to watch, and we should all be paying attention to writer/director Nicholas Gyeney.
Notable Cast & Crew:
- Manu Bennett
- Larenz Tate
- Linden Ashby
- Yuji Okumoto
- Mark Riccardi
- Brandy Kopp
- Kevon Stover
Recommended If You Like:
- 90’s Action Films
- Hardcore Henry