Spawned from a short film of the same name and driven by a massive IndieGoGo campaign that was reportedly over 1000% funded, Jeff Chan’s futuristic CODE 8 hits hard with the struggle of fringe dwellers with supernatural powers in a harsh society.
In Lincoln City, 4% of the population is born with special powers and even though these abilities are useful, they are treated as second class citizens. With law enforcement laying a heavy hand on them, the “powered” as they’re called, must deal with a healthy dose of discrimination since automation rendered them useless over the years. Their spinal fluid, however, is used as a valuable street drug called Psyke, and drug dealers “farm” the ostracized population as their drug cash cow. Connor (Robbie Amell) is an electric, someone who can naturally control electricity, and his mother Mary (Kari Matchett) can control the cold. She becomes ill, and he can’t keep a job due to society’s harsh view of the power-enabled, so he turns to a life of crime to make money for her medical treatment. Garrett (Stephen Amell), along with his two cronies, are the cogs in a bigger network of Psyke dealers, and Connor joins their team. When a heist goes wrong, Garrett and Connor must come together to evade the determined Agent Park (Sung Kang) and the wrath of their criminal bosses.
With engaging leads Robbie and Stephen Amell (know for their extensive TV work on Arrow and The Flash), and great cinematography and production value, CODE 8 has all the makings of a great franchise or TV series. Robbie Amell shows his emotional range playing Connor, with anger and sadness switching out on a dime, and his cousin Stephen is believable as the roughened Garrett, Connor’s conduit to his power and the dark world of crime.
Where the film needs some work is the clichéd criminals who are more caricatures than threats and a storyline that loses energy midway. While Greg Bryk (Bitten, The Handmaid’s Tale, Saw) plays a rather nasty figure as drug dealer Marcus, overall, the threat posed to the main protagonists seemed a tiny bit hollow. The story does introduce some interesting aspects of discrimination, the hypocrisy of law enforcement, and loyalties within the well-built relationships between the characters. Here’s hoping that if the film gets a sequel or extends into a TV series, we see continued use of the diversity shown in the film. The special effects were subtle and used economically, creating a realistic version of a superhero, one whose merits have been lost on the “normal” masses. Keep your eye out for the Guardian robot cops too. They’re super effective and creepy in this dystopian police state.
For some hometown futuristic fare, you can’t go wrong with the grittiness of the Toronto-shot CODE 8 and the solid Canadian cast. It’s worth watching for the effects and the performances of the talented and dynamic Amell duo.
CODE 8 opens in theatres on December 7 and VOD December 13.