Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Narcopolis: Just Say No to Drugs and Time Travel
to a near future dystopia, where legalized drugs are the defining
characteristic of the brave new society—or perhaps it is someplace in today’s
Colorado, where a lot of British expats have congregated. Since a spotty form
of time travel exists in this world, maybe it can be both. However, control
over that new temporal technology will lead to even more trouble in Justin
Trefgarne’s Narcopolis (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York and Los Angeles.
of the drugs produced by the Ambro Corp come with founder Todd Ambro’s hollow
personal guarantee. They are one hundred percent safe, but still head-smackingly
effective. As the much abused and neglected son of addicts, he made
legalization his personal crusade, so now he maintains his end of the bargain.
At least that is the official story. As a narcotics cop or “dreck,” it is Frank
Grieves’ job to keep the dangerous unlicensed stuff of the streets—basically anything
not produced by Ambro.
has decidedly mixed emotions about his duties, especially since his corrupt squad
chief officer makes no secret of his loyalties to Ambro. He also openly sniffs
the company’s products, as is now acceptable in this day and age. Grieves was
already on his bad side, but his use of scarce resources on a recent case has
further perturbed the corrupt copper. Somehow, he has uncovered a series of
bodies and suspects whose DNA is not in the system. Eventually, the elusive and
frequently leather-clad Eva Gray will offer him an explanation, but he does not
what to hear she is a freedom fighter from the future.
Narcopolis is not exactly a
complex film, but you will be hard-pressed to explain just what the Ambro Corp
is doing, beyond their core legal narcotics business—or why they are doing it,
besides their general all-purpose commitment to villainy. Still, there is
something darkly compelling about the film’s vision of post-legalization
society. Drugs are now almost omnipresent, even in the top levels of the police
force. Although its dystopian cityscape owes a clear debt to Bladerunner and its host of followers,
the design team still makes it look slick and coolly oppressive.
Cowan is serviceable enough as Grieves and Jonathan Pryce gamely chews the
scenery as the oddball Russian designer chemist Yuri Sidorov. Yet, somehow the
characters never seem to connect with the audience or each other. It does not
help that the villains are basically vanilla-flavored cardboard. Even more
frustrating, Elodie Yung (Netflix’s Daredevil,
District 13: Ultimatum) hardly has any chance to show off her action chops
We pretty much know from the start who the
mystery corpse is, because the film never gives us any other suspects, yet the
revelation is still surprisingly potent. In fact, Trefgarne displays a fair
degree of skill. Perhaps instead of marrying together a dystopian drug thriller
with a time travel fate-changing fable, he should have focused solely on one or
the other (probably the former). Let’s just say he’s no Timothy Woodward Jr. We’d
be happy to see another film from Trefgarne. Even though the pieces don’t quite
fit together, genre fans should consider checking it out when it hits Netflix.
There is something to it, but probably not enough to justify Manhattan ticket
prices. Regardless, it opens tomorrow (10/2) at the Arena Cinema in LA and
screens ‘round midnight this weekend at the IFC Center in New York.
Labels: British Cinema, Dystopian Cinema