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‘The Beta Test’ is a Razor Sharp Satire With No Strings Attached (Review)

In the opening scene of “The Beta Test,” viewers witness the graphic murder of a young woman in a domestic violence incident. It sets a very dark tone for the film and foreshadows some elements of the storyline but shifts directions relatively quickly after the opening credits.

We’re introduced to Jordan (Jim Cummings, “Thunder Road,” “The Wolf of Snow Hollow”), an anxious Hollywood agent battling a stressful job, a painful ulcer, and a fiancĂ©e named Caroline (Virginia Newcomb) who he is just weeks away from marrying.

A routine visit to the mailbox kicks Jordan’s storyline into full gear. He gets a letter in a purple envelope, addressed to him with golden calligraphy and featuring no return address. Inside is an invitation to come to a local hotel room for an anonymous and “no strings attached” sexual encounter. He tosses it into the garbage with nervous energy, but later finds himself digging through the apartment building’s dumpster to track it down.

The offer seems too good to be true. Could he pull off a passionate encounter without anybody finding out before he ties the knot?

There probably wouldn’t be much of a movie if he didn’t show up for the mysterious invitation and, of course, the encounter changes the trajectory of Jordan’s life, subsequently consuming his thoughts. He confides in his co-worker PJ (PJ McCabe) and starts trying to figure out how he was targeted for the invitation in the first place and what repercussions he might face as a result.

I would file most of the rest of what occurs as the story progresses under “the less you know, the better.”

Cummings is a very expressive actor and communicates so much with simple looks and reactions. It allows him to play complex characters like Jordan where you may quickly alternate between empathy and annoyance at his actions. Cummings and co-star PJ McCabe are also triple threats on this project, sharing the writing and directing credits.

The screenplay kept me guessing to the very end. It twists and turns, alternating between pitch black comedy and enough tension to give you an ulcer just like Jordan.

Skewering post-Harvey Weinstein Hollywood, “The Beta Test” is a razor sharp satire that delivers more than a few uncomfortable laughs.

The Beta Test” arrives in select theaters today and is also available nationwide to rent from all digital providers.

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