The ludicrous but amusing teen social-media thriller Nerve is committed to pinning its characters into a world we understand as ours. It opens with Skype, Spotify, Gmail and Chrome, all on the MacBook screen of a mousily beautiful teen, Vee (Emma Roberts), who you just know is one horrific adventure away from self-actualization. Once the voyeuristic creep-outs start and our heroine is broadcasting herself performing stunts for money for a dark-web audience, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman situate each set piece at a precise Manhattan location, with onscreen titles identifying the cross streets. Perhaps that's meant to help eager young people who might also like to record themselves getting surprise tattoos off St. Mark's or shimmying into obscenely priced formalwear in Bergdorf Goodman's fitting rooms -- and then fleeing the store in what my mom would call their bloomers.
That specificity doesn't exactly ground the story. Vee's adventures come in the form of Nerve, an anonymous game of online dares that the contestants must record themselves performing on their phones for the pleasure of the watchers who have downloaded the app. It might not surprise you to learn that the dares start out like low-key reality-TV junk -- eat a weird thing! -- and soon turn deadly, building to executions before a roaring in-person crowd. Like most movies, books or concerned blog posts about How the Teens Live Online Now, Nerve has that whiff of older people telling younger people what young people are like. That isn't to say that Nerve isn't a pleasurable watch: The city and the plot points wheel right by, the leads fetchingly entranced with each other and shot with a swooning neon kinecticism.