Just released on streaming is the sci-fi CODE 8, starring Robbie Amell, and Stephen Amell of “Arrow” fame. The movie is expanded from a 2016 short film and received limited releases across the world but now gets international exposure through Netflix.
The opening credits using a combination of newsreel footage and recreated “historic” films to introduce us to an alternative version of our world where some people have had special powers for decades. Like the Netflix movie “Bright” before it, the idea of the world already populated with “fantastic” individuals is intriguing storytelling.
Robbie Amell is Connor Reed, an “electric”, whose concern for his mother’s health makes him desperate for money. Connor is a labourer at a building site where some of the crew are using their powers to work. The “brawns” display strength while others cut through metal pipes with flames from their fingers. Of course, unregistered “powereds” are illegal, and the police are soon on top of them. One makes a break for it and the city’s robot Guardians drop in and cut him down.
Connor and his now out of work labourers are waiting for jobs when Stephen Amell’s Garret drives past. Despite his buddy warning him that Garrett is bad news, Connor, desperate for cash to help his ailing mother, volunteers his services.
And so Connor descends into a criminal underworld where Garret’s crew are facilitating jobs for some serious bad guys – The Trust.
This is a straightforward crime drama, replete with F-bombs and drug-addicted low-lives scrabbling around double-crossing each other. It just happens to have some enhanced humans in it.
It is refreshing to see the inversion of the usual trope of superpowers being used for good and a world where superpowers aren’t really “super” is a great idea. But after a while, I was losing interest in the characters and began to hope for a twist or two to keep me engaged.
A BIGGER STORY?
The story plays out well enough, but what was frustrating was that there were some character stories hinted at but never pursued, even Park (Sung Kang), one of the cops pursuing them has an interesting story with his daughter but blink and you’ll miss it. Occasionally the film skirts with bigger issues such as discrimination, the desperation of poverty, illness, corruption and the police state, but it never commits, instead, it sticks to the simple action drama.
A spin-off series is being developed on Quibi so perhaps there’s enough world-building in this independent sci-fi to take it further.
FULFILLS YOUR AMELL NEEDS!
It’s very much Robbie Amell’s film and he does a good job with a character that spends most of the film reacting to events around him, not instigating them. Connor is hard to like though, despite his decent motivations for what he does. Stephen Amell seems to be enjoying playing against type as the ruthless Garrett – I’m sure his legion of fans will love it.
It’s a solid movie, with decent enough characters, some nice effects, and worthy of a Saturday night in. And let’s face it, we’re all having Saturday nights in.
Watch the excellent short film that inspired the feature here: