Review: ‘Latency’

A Game Sasha Luss Can't Take This AI Horror To The Next Level

Video games have always had the power to immerse us in fantastical worlds outside of reality. Still, as they’ve progressed in sophistication and technology it has become harder to separate what’s real from what isn’t. Advances in VR and AI tech have only blurred the lines further. For someone who is already coping with trauma that turns their world into a nightmare, such immersion could prove deadly, as it does for Sasha Luss in James Croke’s thriller, Latency.

In Luss’ single best performance of her young career, the Russian model-turned-actress plays Hana, an agoraphobic gamer in a slump who agrees to test out a new AI tech called Omnia. The console device snaps onto the back of her head, which should’ve been an instant sign that this shit wasn’t going to go right. But the device connects with her neurologically and reduces her response time to zero, putting Hana back on the winning track. Of course, it isn’t long before Hana begins having a mental breakdown as Omnia’s real, menacing impact is felt.

Croke, who also wrote the screenplay, comes up with some cool video game-inspired visuals for Latency. Thrusting the audience right into the thick of it, we see Hana fighting off hordes of monsters in a blistering shooter sequence as she tests out a brand new game. Scenes like this make Latency more fun than the claustrophobic premise would suggest. It’s just unfortunate that this level of immersion doesn’t translate as well when Hana’s world becomes more sinister, and Croke could’ve used it a lot more than he does.

Luss, who most fans will know from the assassin thriller Anna and last year’s action-adventure Sheroes, pays respect to those suffering from agoraphobia with a performance free of gimmicks and cliches. The only other actor in the film is Youtuber and influencer Alexis Ren as Hana’s best friend Jen. It’s Jen who proves some of the light-hearted humor, but also understanding as she tries to her Hana through her many anxieties. Their interactions don’t amount to much, but they are welcome for adding a little something different to a film that can feel a bit static as it only takes place inside of a single apartment. Jen’s appearances are a nice change of pace for a film that too often is pretty dull and scare-free. Latency, while featuring a few notable visual flourishes and a solid performance by Luss, never goes far enough to advance to the next level.

Latency is open in theaters now.

Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-latencyVideo games have always had the power to immerse us in fantastical worlds outside of reality. Still, as they've progressed in sophistication and technology it has become harder to separate what's real from what isn't. Advances in VR and AI tech have only blurred...