Review: Level Up (Blu-ray)

level-up-review-banner

Title: Level Up
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: September 19, 2016 (UK)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Original MSRP: £9.99
Number of Discs: 1
Language: English
Subtitles: English
BBFC Rating: 15
A copy of this movie was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Story:
Level Up features a gamer named Matt (Josh Bowman – Revenge) with grand ideas but a lack of direction and drive. After a disappointing date night with his girlfriend, Anna (Leila Mimmack – High-Rise), she leaves Matt playing on his PlayStation 4 while she goes up to bed. Their cute little dog seems to portray the exact emotions of the couple as he watches Matt play.

The next morning things quickly go from bad to worse. Anna leaves for work and is obviously still in a mood with Matt who then receives a knock at the door. Masked thugs barge in and lock him in a body vest with a small locked container on the front. They inform Matt that he must deliver this package to the instructed location or he will never see his girlfriend again.

During his frantic trek across London, the situation becomes painfully terrifying and quite bizarre, as several people are out to stop him from succeeding in fulfilling his goals. Matt begins to question the reasons for the madness he has been thrust into and whether he will ever see Anna again.

level-up-stills-9 level-up-stills-1

This is where the pace kicks in and doesn’t let up for a good portion of the film. However with each encounter Matt faces, the pace slowly dilutes into feelings of confusion and intrigue. Thankfully, this is not an episode of Lost and almost everything makes sense by the end.

Matt does not become an unstoppable killing machine with a particular set of skills, nor does he dance a jig at the end (that’s an old reference to a classic). He stays consistently human throughout the ordeal. In fact, most of the cast represents much of what the seedier side of London has to offer and in a believable way.

… there are no shaky cam moments …
Yet I could not shake the feeling of monetary restrictions reigning in the action and curtailing the scope a little too much, definitely more than the plot deserved. Yet the distinct lack of ‘dosh’ (money) did not force the production to be cheap. Instead it seemed to make them a little more inventive and clever.

Aside from an awkwardly cut moment where a drug dealer loses his phone and Matt intervenes, the flow from one scene to the next is great. Lots of quick cuts keep the sense of urgency alive and mercifully there are no shaky cam moments that a few big budget films employ to hide the lack of real danger in a chase or to give a fight more dramatic effect.

Adam Randall has shown great promise in both the writing and directing of Level Up and I can only hope his next film has a bigger budget. If there had been a few more nuggets in the coffers I would bet the encounters and conclusion of the film would have been more meaningful and twisted.

Video:
The camera work and picture quality is solid, excluding the mocked-up PlayStation 4 game that lacked a layer of authenticity that a gamer like me noticed. I doubt however many other people would give a second thought to the attempt.

The high definition film and camera work is very good and fools you into thinking this isn’t an indie film. I liked the imaginative locations with the final chase scene being almost surreal.

Audio:
What really sucks you in and keeps you glued to the screen is the excellent music performed by Plaid, an electronic music duo from London. The music seems to carry Matt’s anxiety as he races through the grimy side streets and dank dwellings of drug dealers.

One location relies heavily on sound to influence a scene and to a degree, it works, but I fear some will not get the intention right away. Heck, some might even expect a T-Rex to burst through the wall. Enough of my silliness. What I did expect to hear in a gritty contemporary London is the distinctive accents of the area and I was not disappointed, especially with the London cabbie.

… a solid story with believable characters …
Bonus Features:
It might seem like a lot of content but it really isn’t. What it lacks in quantity it just about makes up for in quality, especially if you want to know a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes of an indie film. Most are self-explanatory, with quick interviews with the producers, musicians, cast, and the obligatory bloopers. I would highly suggest waiting until after the film to peruse these quick extras.

  • 5 minutes with Leo Pearlman (5:32) – An interesting chat with one of the producers.
  • 10 minutes with Plaid (10:58) – An interview with Plaid talking about the music in the film.
  • Adam Randall and Eben Bolten (1:25) – Mostly Eben Bolten (Director of Photography) talking about Adam.
  • Around London (1:27) – Adam Randall talking about shooting scenes in London.
  • Cast & Crew (0:57) – A brief chat about the cast and crew<./li>
  • Costume Design (1:30) – Sian Jenkins (Costume Designer) talks about the clothing. Contains mild spoilers.
  • Estate Flat Tour (2:20) – Paul Burns (Production Designer) talks about one of the scenes.
  • Fun On Set (1:46) – Quick clips from behind the camera.
  • Edit Process (0:32) – Another part of the interview with Leo Pearlman.
  • SFX (0:57) – A quick look at the props in the film. Contains spoilers.
  • Taxi Bloopers (1:17) – Some amusing banter with the cabbie played by Paul Reynolds.
  • Matt’s Character (1:31) – Various people talk about the lead character.
  • Through Screens (1:34) – Adam Randall talking about the film and part of the meaning behind it.

level-up-stills-10 level-up-stills-3

Conclusion:
There have only been a handful of impressive British films of late and Level Up comes close to being one of them. It does contain a solid story with believable characters but it struggles to pack a punch in a few crucial moments. My guess is that time and money was not on their side but they do an excellent job of hiding it.

I enjoyed this more than a few recent Hollywood films and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a meaningful story, just remember that it’s an indie film so there will be no blowing up of MI6 or chases in speedboats on the Thames.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook