Retro games have an appeal that even their AAA titles on the Playstation 4 and XBOX One can’t quite compete with. Things for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and before, contain a portal back to childhood that’s pretty singular. In crafting a sci-fi film that pays tribute to those sort of games, Max Reload and the Nether Blasters manages to pull off something fairly unique. It won’t necessarily be for everyone, but gamers and those who appreciate the games of an era past will find it pretty clever. Even beyond that crowd, it’s just a solid little action comedy that’s vying for your attention this weekend.
The movie is a mix of action and comedy, filtered through a science fiction lens. Set in a small town, video game store clerk and gaming expert Max Jenkins (Tom Plumley) is about to discover a killer game. Long a devotee of the Nether Game series, a copy of the legendary lost sequel arrives at his store, leading him to think that it’s his lucky day. Instead, playing the game unlocks a “Curse of the Ages” and releases an ancient evil force called the Nether, rising from the cartridge and preying upon his town. Teamed up with best friends Liz (Hassie Harrison), Reggie (Joey Morgan), and the game’s reclusive creator (Greg Grunberg), Max is going to need to beat the game before it’s too late. Scott Conditt and Jeremy Tremp team up to direct a screenplay they also collaborated on (the pair also edits). Jesse Mitchell composes the score, while Tramp also handles the cinematography. Supporting players include Martin Kove, Joseph D. Reitman, Lin Shaye, Kevin Smith, Wil Wheaton, and more.
Despite not having much in the way of a budget, filmmakers Scott Conditt and Jeremy Tremp think outside the box and manage to stretch things as best they can. The visuals are limited, to be sure, but the script is clever, the nerd-crowd supporting players like Greg Grunberg, Kevin Smith, and Wil Wheaton lend some solid humor, while Tom Plumley is a strong lead (reminding me a lot of Nat Wolff, actually). Hassie Harrison also has a vibe that suggests she could be a star. It all helps to give Conditt and Tremp the ammunition they need to succeed with their ambitious idea.
Max Reload and the Nether Blasters is not just a tribute to old games. It’s also is a love letter to retro nostalgia, in general, having fun with the sort of silly plot points that would be found in the adventure movies of the 1980s. Ridiculous is a starting point here, and it’s really the sort of touch that you need for a flick like this one. Almost intentional in its DIY lo-fi feel, there’s a sense that Conditt and Tremp really do love games, nostalgia, and indie films (making it no surprise they sought out Smith for a part). That infectious affection is a major reason why the movie succeeds.
Out now, Max Reload and the Nether Blasters represents a silly yet hard to resist bit of fun. The low budget aspect of it may turn off some, but the charm of the whole lo-fi fits the vibe really well, actually. It’s great evidence of what these filmmakers can pull off if/when they’re given a studio project to tackle. For now, this is a fun flick that’s more than worth your time. Much like an old game, it provides a different sort of fun, one that engages your imagination in the process. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean…
Be sure to check out Max Reload and the Nether Blasters, on VOD now!
(Photos courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group)