Teen Wolf’s Linden Ashby says he’s not playing the typical bad guy in his new action thriller Beta Test. “Kincaid clearly thinks of himself as a hero, as a patriot doing what he needs to save his country.” Ashby’s Andrew Kincaid spends a good bit of his time on screen railing against gun violence and calling for stricter gun control. This type of ripped-from-the-headlines rhetoric would place him on the side of the angels if he weren’t, in Ashby’s words, “batsh*t crazy.”
“I actually find myself agreeing with quite a bit of what Kincaid thinks if you take out the absolute batsh*t crazy part,” the actor shares during our conversation.
It’s that “crazy part” on which hangs the tale of Beta Test.
Kincaid runs the world’s fastest growing video game company and has access to technology that allows real people to be controlled like video game characters. The story immediately reminds one of Gerard Butler’s Gamer (2009) but, unlike that film, the player (Larenz Tate) in Beta Test has no idea that the new video game he’s testing at home is actually causing events to unfold in the real world.
It makes for a chilling commentary on how people compartmentalize the extreme violence we take for granted in games.
Imagine watching a real mass shooting in real time on your television and cheering hits and kills like players do when the same thing happens in a typical FPS game. That’s kind of how the first act of Beta Test plays out and it’s uncomfortable but compelling viewing.
Part of the movie’s success is in the realism of its gaming elements. Ashby says that’s because it’s a real game built specifically for the movie. “They (audiences) assume that it’s just animation and it’s actually not,” the actor explains. “It’s actually a video game engine that’s on display which I think is pretty cool.”
Overall Beta Test is pretty cool. It’s a throwback of sorts to action movies from the 80s and 90s like Timecop and RoboCop with the same type blend of science fiction and violence. These movies all take place in that alternate universe of cinema where complex issues are settled with fists, feet and guns and the action doesn’t slow down long enough to notice any plot issues.
Beta Test will probably not break any box office records with its limited release on July 22 but one scene breaks a record other movies haven’t come close to before. “I think it’s the longest continuous action sequence in film,” Ashby says.
The scene he’s talking about is a six-minute plus, single take during which the hero of the piece (Manu Bennett) faces off against more than a dozen attackers on three different levels. It’s masterful filmmaking, fight choreography, and acting.
Beta Test is the kind of original film that larger studios don’t seem to want to make any more. Keep in mind that, in this context, “original” doesn’t mean there’s nothing else like it ever in the history of the world. It just means it’s not a sequel or a reboot or adapted from a comic book or a young adult novel or any other preexisting material.
Beta Test is the brainchild of Nicholas Gyeney. He wrote, directed and did just about everything else required to get the thing made. “I love working with filmmakers who have a limited budget but they have a big imagination and are not afraid of hard work,” Ashby says. “They find a way. They call in favors. They find ways to make this stuff happen. It’s a miracle anytime you’re on a movie set these days because it’s so hard to get anything made. He (Gyeney) did it. My hat is off to him.”
Chances are you live in or near one of the cities that will see Beta Test when it opens. If you do and you like old-school action movies with a twist, you should check it out.
Beta Test will open in these cities on July 22 –
- Seattle, WA – Siff Cinema Uptown
- Bellingham, WA – AMC Loews Cascade Mall 14
- Denver, CO – AMC Westminster Promenade 24
- Chicago, IL – AMC South Barrington 30
- Detroit, MI – AMC Forum 30
- New York, NY – AMC Loews Jersey Gardens 20
- Philadelphia, PA – AMC Neshaminy 24
- Atlanta, GA – AMC North DeKalb Mall 16
- Tampa, FL – AMC Veterans Expressway 24
- Baton Rouge, LA – AMC Baton Rouge 16
- Houston, TX – AMC Studio 30
- Phoenix, AZ – AMC Arizona Center 24
- Long Beach, CA – AMC Orange 30
- Los Angeles, CA – AMC Ontario Mills 30
- San Francisco, CA – AMC Deer Valley 16
- Washington D.C. – AMC Starplex Loudoun 11