CODE 8 (2020) turns a great premise into an average film

Adapted from a 2016 short film of the same name, Code 8 is set in a dystopian future where super-powered individuals are outlawed, typically resorting to a life of petty crime. This story follows a power-enabled construction worker who gets involved with a group of criminals in order to raise money for his sick mother.

In terms of concept, this film hits a home run. There’s no question as to how this got turned from a 10-minute short into a full length feature film as the framework for a great story is all there. The world building is captivating enough to draw you in from the opening sequence. From here, the actual story being told is solid but lacking impact. It’s an all-round serviceable plot with ample setup, decent pacing and okay characters. It doesn’t really pull any tricks when it comes to major twists in the story and really just floats through all the beats you expect it to hit.

I didn’t feel much of a connection to any of the characters, even the ones you were supposed to be rooting for. The whole thing just felt a little lifeless, which resulted in being unable to really engage in the story emotionally. It’s not a bad narrative, it’s just very passive; the sort of film you’ll watch and forget about within a matter of hours. The most disappointing part of the film is the ending that fades out without a big moment or any solid closure. This whole film is another case of having a great concept with great ideas that is let down by an average execution.

When it comes to the action, I will say it’s the most well-handled element of the film. From the gunfights to the more super-power focused scenes, the action in here is quite tense and I found myself thoroughly enjoying all of most of these scenes. What really works is that in this world, power-enabled individuals aren’t treated like gods who are invulnerable. They can be shot and killed just as easily as everyone else, so that adds a layer of tension that wouldn’t have been there if these were Superman-level powers.

In terms of the performances, I thought everyone in here was fine… not amazing, just fine. Robbie Amell is a likeable protagonist who paints a good picture of the power-enabled individuals in this world. I felt like I was rooting for him because the story wanted me to, not because I actually cared about him and his predicament. However, that may be more the fault of the writing than the actual performance. The film also stars his cousin, Stephen Amell, who I’ve never really liked in anything, including The CW’s Arrow. Even here I wasn’t entertained by his character, I just feel like he doesn’t bring the charisma or intrigue to make for a compelling character.

In the end, Code 8 is a decent sci-fi crime thriller that benefits from some engaging action sequences, good visual effects and a gritty feel but is let down by a narrative that is serviceable but lacking impact. The characters aren’t that engaging and the performances behind them are just fine. Overall, this is an easy film you can watch when you’ve exhausted the rest of the Netflix library while stuck at home.

5.6/10

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