Level Up is short and fast paced. Matt (Josh Bowman) is in a deteriorating relationship with Anna (Leila Mimmack), barely functioning as a jobless pseudo-entrepreneur. He’s attacked and given the task of delivering a package at the expense of Anna’s life. Following instructions texted to him with every move, he travels across the seedy underground of London to complete his mission.
The character and the filmmaker’s motivations are very clear. It feels like writer/director Adam Randall was aiming for something akin to After Hours running amok in the set of an early Guy Ritchie movie. The product doesn’t live up to the intention as after the story kicks into full gear at ten minutes in, the momentum loses power steadily.
We’re treated to an opening of parallel action between a man in a suit overpowering his
mugger, a man jumping from a building while civilians film it, and a man in his underwear running with the package Matt acquires several scenes later. The images very loosely intersect, representing a lot of what’s to come: a taste of interesting scenarios with little or no payoff. The voyeurism introduced in the opening is heavy-handedly dropped throughout the first twenty-minutes, entertaining the idea of some social commentary but never fulfilling its purpose.
At the peak of Level Up’s adrenaline is a long sequence at a London housing project. It’s the only time the movie feels comfortable in its own skin; the only time when the wit and excitement carry the premise, as well as the only point where it seems like the filmmakers were having fun creating it. The beginning scenes of Matt at home, Matt and Anna at dinner, and the small issues pushing them apart, are well done – they feel like real people. Even more so, the early moments with Matt’s friend Joel (rapper and comedian Ben Bailey Smith) procrastinating are genuinely funny, and make me wish more of the movie included the two of them going through the journey together rather than Matt reacting to only his phone.
Script aside, Randall’s ability to direct is easily more prominent than his ability to write. The images on screen often outrun the pace of the script. He knows how to direct actors and action well but just needs the right tools to bring it to fruition.
Level Up hits VOD this week.