This is an action-comedy that somehow manages to be engaging despite all the cliches. Dark Web: Cicada 3301 is a movie replete with fast-talking, street-smart, cynical, foul-mouthed characters, secret societies with some strong opinions about society and civilization, and brain-teasing riddles that involve, say, William Blake or Van Gogh. Some of it works, and some of it doesn't, but on the whole, there's enough to the story to keep it interesting for the entire movie. This is less due to the comedy, which doesn't really work, and more due to the raised stakes in each new scene. The mystery of it all and where it's leading outweighs the fun one might have in naming the different movies this movie seems to be borrowing from in one degree or another.
The acting is solid, even if the dialogue is inconsistent and sometimes resorts to the cliches of the cynical urban action character. It surprises no one when the lead character, the cash-strapped Connor, asks to borrow money from his best friend, the successful art history professor Avi, and Avi pretends to reach into his sport coat pocket to retrieve some cash and pulls out, wouldn't you just know it, a middle finger. And even with scenes of decadence during a masquerade ball that leads one to expect Tom Cruise to show up at any time with the "Fidelio" password, there's enough going on to hold interest and see how this whole thing ends. It's not the best movie, but it's enjoyable enough for a lazy weekend afternoon.