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Film review: Narcopolis

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★★

It’s 2044, 25 years since recreational drug use was legalised and Todd Ambro (James Callis), founder of the homonymous drugs manufacturing corporation, states on live news “today Ambro products are legal, they are affordable and they are safe”.

NarcopolisMeanwhile, inside the Ambro-Corp facilities a young man, directed wirelessly (Mission-Impossible-style) by his girlfriend and ninja sidekick, is hacking into the Ambro system with the intent of erasing the Stark-esque molecular module of the drug  of which the news banner informs us 85% of the population are in favour. The set-up is strong, fast pace and titillating, at this stage seemingly confident in setting itself up as a drug-induced Contagion crossed with The Matrix.

Unfortunately though, Justin Trefgarne’s ambitious directorial debut falls slightly short of its self-precedented expectations.

Jumping back twenty years we might expect to learn of the mysterious Ambro-corp’s origins and perhaps even discover why the amateur Mi5-couple are so intent on bringing them down. Instead we are met with the middle aged Frank played by Elliot Cowan.

As one of a new breed of cops employed to stamp out unlicensed drug salesmen and clean up after messy overdoses, Frank stumbles upon the body of a young man whose face has been aggressive decimated by effect of some unknown drug. The mystery of the decimated body deepens when Frank is unable to get a DNA match for the victim. On spontaneously returning to the same crime scene the next day Frank discovers a woman who too has no DNA match thus presuming her to be under the influence of the same mysterious drug.

The woman though has attracted some unwanted attention from the recently established Ambro-Corp who demands the girl to be handed over to them as the new rulers of the drug scene. Keeping up so far? Don’t get too comfortable because this is where it goes from hesitantly logical to utterly bizarre.

The mess of interrelated subplots that follow include a retired scientist with an allergy to radiation (Jonathan Pryce), a young girl claiming to be from the future whose motives for traveling back to this point are unclear at best, and not forgetting Frank’s dysfunctional family situation; the depressed wife (Molly Gaisford) he seems incapable of loving and the prodigal son whose obsession with H.G Wells attempts to add a little cultural underlay to the scene by undeserved association with this master of science fiction.  

In deciding to abandon its Contagion-inspired premise in favour of a more Torchwood fantasy midway through, Narcopolis presents an incredibly confused storyline. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that somehow two very different drafts got disastrously merged resulting in two plotlines which never quite converge into a logical conclusion.

All in all, in the vast realms of sci-fi films currently being produced Narcopolis is unlikely to hold it’s own. This is however an incredibly ambitious first time feature for Justin Trefgarne, whose creative vivacity and keen directive eye will likely lead him on to far greater things.

 

RELEASES IN UK AND IRISH CINEMAS 25TH SEPTEMBER, AND ON DVD 28TH SEPTEMBER. OPENS IN US THEATRES, ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL  2ND OCTOBER.

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