Code 8 – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: In a world where people with powers are outlawed and treated like second-class citizens, a young man with the power to manipulate electricity gets involved with a group of criminals similarly endowed with varying abilities.

When his mother, who also has a superpower, gets sick and needs to be hospitalised, the man makes a deal with the local criminal drug lord to do a job so as he can raise the money to help his mother.

Is it any good?: Code 8 is an entertaining thriller with a strong central story and premise. With the Amell cousins – Stephen and Robbie – taking the central roles, the film manages to keep you engaged through its near one-hundred minute runtime.

Spoiler territory: As the world’s technology advances, there is less of a need for people born with superpowers, with many of the jobs they had done being done more economically by robots and mechanical machinery.

In Lincoln City, the fear of super-powered individuals is such that many found themselves unemployable. A new drug, Psyke, that is created by taking spinal fluid from super-powered individuals is flooding the streets and this is making it even more difficult for them to be accepted by wider society.

Connor (Robbie Amell) wakes his tired mother, Mary (Kari Matchett) from her slumber on the sofa. She has fallen asleep in her work uniform. As Connor prepares breakfast, Mary goes to the bathroom to freshen up. Her hands, covered in dark lesions, hurt as she washes them. Connor checks the mail. Every envelope is an overdue bill.

Mother and son discuss Connor’s upcoming interview. He notes that the lesions on her hands are getting worse. Mary tells him they are fine. Connor goes to his interview. Afterwards, he heads to a building site hoping to get some cash for doing a bit of labour. Joe (Lawrence Bayne), the foreman, offers him half-a-day’s pay because he missed the first hour. Connor needs the money so is forced to take the work.

Joe uses super-powered people on his house builds. As the men go about the construction, the police turn up and ask to see the workforce. The workforce is all told to look up so as they can be checked by a drone that hovers above. One of the workers is not registered on the system and tries to escape after the police take him into custody. As he runs away, two robot policemen drop from the drone and shoot him dead.

Elsewhere in the city, the police are getting ready to do a raid on a Psyke drug house. The house is part of the kingpin, Marcus Sutcliffe (Greg Bryk), drug network. As they raid the apartment, they find a room with multiple super-powered people hooked up to drips siphoning their spinal fluid. The police put out a press release, informing the city of their continued fight against the Psyke problem. They also show footage of the drug haul being taken away to be destroyed.

Connor stops by his mum’s workplace and finds her manager, Dave (Matthew Gouveia), telling her off. He is not happy about the way that he speaks to her. Dave does not care, knowing that Mary does not want to cause any problems for herself and her son, especially as both have superpowers. Mary gets fired.

Mary is not happy that Connor displayed his superpowers to Dave. Connor hits back that she had not exactly hidden her own powers, Mary’s ability to freeze things slipping from her control due to her health. She has a tumour but they cannot afford to pay for her to have chemotherapy. The next day, Connor is waiting with a group of labourers all hoping to get some work that day. A van drives past and a man from the van throw liquid at them whilst shouting abuse.

Another van comes along. Connor asks one of the other labourers, Travis (Jai Jai Jones), who they are. He tells him that they are part of Sutcliffe’s trafficking crew. The van stops and Garrett (Stephen Amell) leans out of the van and asks the gathered labourers if any of them are an electrical of at least level two. The labourers stay silent. Garrett voices the thought that no one wants to get paid then. Connor steps up.

Garrett, plus two others, Maddy (Laysla De Oliviera), a woman who can generate extreme heat through her hands and Freddie (Vlad Alexis), who has super strength, are in the van. Garrett is telekinetic. They all go to a storage facility. Garrett needs Connor to cut through the fence because it is electrified.

Connor shorts the fence and the crew break into the compound. They grab six barrels of a chemical that helps to create Psyke. A security guard tries to stop them and they put him in a dumpster. The police get alerted to the break-in and are looking for the van. The crew change the colour of the van to avoid detection.

In a club bar where Sutcliffe hangs out, Sutcliffe is having a nervous meeting with Cumbo (Peter Outerbridge). He owes Cumbo money. Cumbo, knowing that Sutcliffe reads minds, tells him to look into the eyes of his associate, Copperhead (Sarah Hödlmoser). Sutcliffe looks into her eyes. He tells Cumbo that she is thinking of the various ways she can cut his throat. Cumbo tells him he has a week to come up with the money.

The crew come into the club, led over to Sutcliffe by Rhino (Simon Northwood), Sutcliffe’s bodyguard. Sutcliffe reads Connor and notes his anger. He tells Nia (Kyla Kane), a healer, to show him around. Garrett has a meeting with Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe asks about Connor and Garrett tells him that the boy is more powerful than he realises but needs to be honed. Sutcliffe tells him to get on it as he has a big score he wants them to do.

Garrett starts coughing. Rhino comes and finds Nia. She is needed by Sutcliffe. Garrett takes Connor back to where he picked him up from and overpays him for the night’s work. He tells him there is more work. Connor seems reluctant. Connor returns home and is told by his mother that she went and got her job back at the store.

Nia goes to see Sutcliffe. She is hooked on Psyke and heals him in exchange for the drug. The next day, Connor is waiting for work again. Joe turns up and all the labourers rush to the truck. Garrett turns up just after. Connor decides to go with him. Garrett wants to know why Connor has joined them, knowing what sort of people they are. Connor tells him that his mother is sick.

Garrett decides to help him realise his potential. Connor accompanies Garrett as he goes about his daily drug pushing business, in-between the hustle, he trains him. They go to see Mikey (Max Laferriere). Mikey owes Garrett money. Mikey tells him that The Trust, who runs the Psyke trade, say that Sutcliffe and Garrett are done. He is taking over. Connor steps up to Mikey. Mikey, also an electric, zaps him. He is not as powerful as Connor.

Connor zaps Mikey back, putting him down. Later, Garrett tells Connor that he needs to be who he is and not hide his abilities. Connor goes and visits the manager at his mother’s workplace, Dave. He keeps training with Garrett and his control gets much better. He lies to his mother telling her he got the job he went for.

Conner is a person of interest after a spate of robberies involving super-powered persons. Park (Sung Kang) and Davis (Aaron Abrams), part of the LCPD, watch Conner. Garrett and Connor go to case out a bank they plan to hit. Connor tells the crew about the security and cameras at the bank. Dave is reluctant to order Mary around anymore after his visit from Conner.

The crew hit the bank. They get into the vault but the expected amount of money is not in the vault. Garrett asks the bank teller, Emily (Casey Hudecki), where the money is. She tells him that most of the money had been collected earlier in the day. Maddy tells Garrett that they need to leave. The crew leave but are spotted by a police drone. Garrett tells Conner to fire on the drone. Conner disables the drone and they escape.

Garrett goes to see Sutcliffe. He tells him his information was not good. As they argue, a young man at the bar looks around. He gets up and his face changes. It is Copperhead. She tries to kill Sutcliffe. Rhino stands between her and Sutcliffe, taking the shots. She turns her attention to Nia but Conner blast the gun out of her hand. She turns to him and pulls a knife, slicing his forearm. Rhino shoots her. As she is on the floor he shoots her in the head making sure she is dead.

Garrett tells Sutcliffe that they need to hit back at the Trust. Sutcliffe tells him that he does not realise how big the Trust is and that it is his business, not theirs. Nia heals Conner. He did not know she was a healer. She tells him that she is paying off a debt to Sutcliffe which is why she works for him.

Mary finds Connor’s money. She wants to know how he came by so much cash as she knows he did not get the job. As they argue, Mary collapses. Connor takes her to the hospital. A doctor (Darrin Baker) tells him that the tumour is pressuring her brain and she needs to be treated urgently. The cost of her treatment is huge.

As Connor leaves the hospital, he is picked up by Park and Davis. They take him in for interrogation. Davis wants to lock him up but Park says they do not have a strong enough case against him. They let him go. Garrett picks him up and takes him to see Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe looks into his eyes and tells Garrett that he did not tell them anything.

Garrett comes up with a plan to steal the Psyke that the LCPD burn before it is destroyed. Connor says he wants Nia in exchange for the job. Sutcliffe agrees. Garrett wants a fifty-fifty split. He agrees to that as well. The crew plan the heist. The day of the heist arrives and the job is going smoothly, Garrett’s crew easily overpowering the armoured van carrying the Psyke.

Sutcliffe’s men start killing everybody and kill Maddy. The crew realise that Sutcliffe wants them all dead as well. LCPD robots are deployed to help with the subduing of the criminals. They shoot Sutcliffe’s men but Freddie is injured during the gun battle and dies.

Nia wants to leave Sutcliffe but he points out to her that her father still owes him a lot of money. He suggests he could just have him killed in prison to cancel the debt. At the police station, the captain, Milltown (Martin Roach), discusses the spate of robberies and the last heist with Davis and Park. Park admits they had Connor in custody but let him go. He does not think he would kill anyone.

Connor goes to see his mother and tells her he is going to help her. She tells him that he needs to let her go, she has accepted her fate. Park goes to see his daughter. While he is out walking with her, Travis gives him a note. Park meets Connor in a cafe. Connor gives Park the location of Sutcliffe’s operation. They storm the location causing Sutcliffe to flee with Nia and Rhino.

Garrett catches up with Sutcliffe and shoots him. Rhino stands in front of him, defending Sutcliffe again. Rhino goes for Garrett. Connor hits him with an electrical blast but he still keeps coming, smacking both the men around. Garrett stabs him in the eye with a metal shaft and Connor kills him with an electrical bolt through it.

Garrett chokes Sutcliffe to death. Nia shows Connor that using her powers to could kill her as she absorbs any disease to cure them. Garrett tells him that he needs to take what he wants. Conner takes Nia to the hospital and tells her to heal his mother. He stops her as Mary wakes up still obviously dying. He holds her hand and she dies.

The LCPD find Sutcliffe’s body. Connor lets Nia go. Lincoln city push through a bill to outlaw superpowers. Park and Davis get commendations for the drug raid. Garrett takes over Sutcliffe’s drug patch and meets with Cumbo. Connor visits his mother’s grave. Nia visits her father in prison. The end.

Code 8 is an entertaining thriller with good performances from all on show. With the popular superpowers genre in full swing and social commentary also very popular, combining the two – a staple of comics through the decades – is a recipe for a strong basis to make a film on. Stephen Amell does not stray far from his Oliver Queen/Arrow persona and it works perfectly well in the framework of this film.

Robbie who, unlike his cousin, is not so defined by one role, continues to show that he is a capable screen presence. He is totally believable as the struggling to find his place Connor. The social commentary is that most popular parable of oppression for something that is beyond one’s control and is only touched upon in the film.

Truth be told, Code 8 is not a film trying to change the world, leaving the preaching of such messages to more cerebral fare. Code 8 is a superhero film in reverse. With Connor as the central protagonist whose only drive is to save his mother, it does not really take in the treatment of other super-powered people beyond the intermittent newscast and Abrams’ Davis obvious dislike of super-powered persons.

The film flows nicely through its ninety-eight-minute runtime, keeping you engaged up until the conclusion. Code 8 is by no means a perfect or great film but it is entertaining. With a screenplay by Chris Pare and story and direction from Jeff Chan, Code 8 is a perfectly serviceable actioner with a nod to social justice. It takes ideas from many other films but they are executed well enough not to be obtrusive. Code 8 is an enjoyable actioner to waste the best part of two hours on.

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