NARCOPOLIS

5.5 out of 10

Release Date: 28th September 2015 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Justin Trefgarne

Cast: Elliot Cowan, Elodie Yung, Robert Bathurst, Cosima Shaw, Molly Gaisford, Nicky Henson, Louis Trefgarne, Adam Sims,  Jon Campling, Josef Altin, Kerry Shale, Rufus Wright, Simeon Willis with  James Callis, Harry Lloyd and Jonathan Pryce

Writer: Justin Trefgarne

TRAILER: NARCOPOLIS

254995A long time in the making, Narcopolis finally arrives on DVD. On the whole it has a lot of interesting ideas at play, yet whilst it may be ‘pound wise it’s penny stupid’.  The overarching plot makes sense except small details don’t allow the scenes to add up so ultimately we’re left with a faulty film, which is a shame as it tries hard to offer something different.

Narcopolis is a time-travel yarn set in 2022, where all drugs have been made legal, no matter how terrible the addiction is. The story followers Elliot Cowan’s (HAMMER OF THE GODS) drug enforcer who keeps blackmarket drugs off the streets. He’s employed by a massive pharmaceutical giant who are making moves to ‘own’ the police force. When a corpse turns up of an unknown person who seems to have taken an unknown drug, our enforcer goes off reservation to find out why his fellow agents and bosses want to cover it up. Then a mysterious girl (ELODIE YUNG – STILL) turns up who seems to have the same drug in her system and the whole city races to secure her, but she keeps on time-jumping, the bitch.

One of the interesting aspects of the film which could have been explored further are all the highly functioning addicts like Elliot Cowan’s wife Molly Gaisford, who seems to managing on heroin, impatient in every way for her next fix, coked up cops and a the CEO of the pharmaceutical giant (JAMES CALLIS – AUSTENLAND) – on depressants. Elsewhere the sci-fi elements are used sparingly: cars look the same yet they have bar codes instead of registration plates; mobile phones have progressed little; and the world looks like it’s on the brink of an economic collapse.  Shots of city skyscrapers at night look impressive and realistic, but on the whole the flashy tech has been left on the sidelines, only to be brought in when the plot needs a device to jump forward in time, etc… It wants to be Bladerunner but it looks more like Shopping.

I think the script was written for fans of hard-sci-fi at one point, then diluted, with the main plot left in place without any one to explain ‘what just happened<?>’.  Come the conclusion, all becomes clearer but one cannot feel like it’s all been fudged in the edit. A few more plot ends could have been tied up?

The film benefits from a nice supporting cast that includes up and coming Harry Lloyd (GAME OF THRONES), James Callis and Jonathan Pryce (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS) who makes a considerable contribution to the plot and isn’t a cheap cameo cheat. Elsewhere, Robert Bathurst (COLD FEET) is miscast as a dirty cop as he just can’t do tough, so one of the baddies is a bit crap. On the whole, it’s very muddled and would have benefitted from a bit of story streamlining as their is a good and sleak sci-fi in here somewhere. At the moment there’s too much meat and fat on the bone though. It’s interesting though.

5.5 out of 10 – Challenging yet muddling sci-fi that could have done with a clearer plot and smidge more action.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Elliot Cowan: Howl (2015), Cilla (TV), Da Vinci’s Demons (TV), Luther (TV), Hammer of the Gods
  • Elodie Yung: Daredevil (TV), Still, GI Joe 2, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), District 13 – Ultimatum
  • Robert Bathurst: Absolutely Anything, Mrs Brown’s Boys – D’Movie, Toast of London (TV), Downton Abbey (TV), Scoop, The Thief Lord, Heidi (2005), Cold Feet (TV), Twenty One, Whoops Apocalypse, The Lenny Henry Show (TV), Blackadder (TV)
  • Cosima Shaw: The von Trapp Family, Papadopoulos & Sons, Piccadilly Jim
  • Nicky Henson: Gozo, We Still Steal The Old Way, Draw On Sweet Night, We Still Kill The Old Way, Truth or Dare, Eastenders (TV), Me Without You, Parting Shots, Shine On Harvey  Moon (TV), Anyone For Sex?, There’s a Girl In My Soup, The Death Wheelers, All Coppers Are…, Witchfinder General, The Frost Report (TV)
  • Jon Campling: To Dream, Rancour, Razors, Mob HandedThe London Firm, The Curse of the Witching Tree, Dead End (2013), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – part 1
  • Josef Altin: Child 44, Game of Thrones (TV), The Hooligan Factory, A Long Way Down, VendettaNow Is Good, Game Of Thrones (TV), Comes a Bright DayAlbatross, Eastern Promises
  • Kerry Shale: Hello Carter, Blood Moon, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, The Trip (TV), Universal Soldier 3, Little Shop Of Horrors
  • Rufus Wright: Arcadia, Eastenders (TV)
  • Simeon Willis: Arcadia
  • James Callis: Bridget Jones 3, Believe, Austenland, Reuniting The Rubins, Battlestar Galactica 2 (TV), Bridget Jones 2, Bridget Jones, Soldier Soldier (TV)
  • Harry Lloyd: Anthropoid, Wolf Hall (TV),  The Theory of EverythingThe Riot Club, The Iron Lady, Game Of Thrones (TV), Robin Hood (TV)
  • Jonathan Pryce: The White King, Dough, Listen Up Phillip, The Salvation, Woman In Gold, Game of Thrones (TV), Wolf Hall (TV), GI Joe 2, Hysteria, Dark Blood, GI Joe, Bedtime Stories, Leatherheads, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, The New World, Brothers of the Head, The Brother’s Grimm, De-Lovely, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Affair of the Necklace, Very Annie Mary, Stigmata, Ronin, James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies, Evita, Carrington, Shopping, A Business Affair, The Age of Innocence, Mr Wroe’s Virgins (TV), Glengarry Glen Ross, Freddie as FRO7 (voice), The Rachel Papers, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Haunted Honeymoon, Doctor and the Devils, Brazil, A Ploughman’s Lunch, Breaking Glass
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One thought on “NARCOPOLIS

  1. Review by Joe Pesci II aka Matt ‘Timebored’ Usher

    I can usually follow a pretty complicated time-loop episode of Doctor Who with little trouble. I am reasonably familiar with the tropes and clichés of time travel stories and the way they work. But NARCOPOLIS defeats me – if anyone can help with the big problem please do, though I can’t say what the big problem is because it’s a pretty big spoiler. But why are the bad guys chasing after someone in the final quarter of the film when they can’t possibly know what the character’s significance is (unless I missed the bit where it said the baddies were time travellers)? There, I think that’s vague enough.

    Anyway, we’re in the near future for most of the film (2022 or 2024 depending on whether you believe the blurb on the back of the DVD or the hints in the film itself). And drugs have been legalised! All of them! It’s a potentially interesting conceit except they don’t do much with it and it’s set far too soon – the unintended implication is that the current government ,you know, the one with Messrs Cameron and Osborne in charge, will pass the necessary legislation. True, it’s easy to see why the future Lord Osborne would want to legalise drugs (and I’m referring to the potential tax revenues not to the alleged and completely unproven and almost certainly perfectly innocent incident with the white powder and the black prostitute) but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the manifesto (a trustworthy document I’m sure).
    Trust me to snipe at the legislative impracticality of the film rather than, say, on the logic of a drug which can make you time travel. (I’m pretty sure I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the wrong stick there.)

    Anyway, our hero, played with a kind of grimly dour and unlovely surliness by Elliot Cowan, is a police officer who, as film police officers frequently do, wanders into forbidden territory and unearths a case which just doesn’t make sense. (And which makes even less sense once he’s solved it but never mind.) A disfigured corpse, with a strange new drug in its system. This leads Cowan to uncover a conspiracy which involves leading drugs companies, his own superiors, a bunch of people who think THE TERMINATOR was a training video and a Russian Jonathan Pryce (some of whose contributions I’m sure are ADR’d in by someone else). Throw in some time travel, drug addiction, the copper’s neglected family, and some top business people who don’t mind doing the dirty work themselves (I didn’t buy that at all) and you have a strangely uninvolving, mechanical film which seems to be trying to smother its own originality and which can’t make it’s mind up whether it’s a warning against unrestricted market practices or a defence of the individual’s right to allow that market to destroy him/her.

    The film struggles to create a credible world for itself and there are too many ill-thought logic gaps. Having set up the premise relatively little is done with it. Just because all drugs are legal it doesn’t follow that everyone will be an addict. It also doesn’t follow that just because they’re legal you can use them whenever you want (driving, at work, operating heavy machinery) though that seems to be the case. The film seems to be suggesting that most of us will be able to go about our daily business without too much trouble (Cowan’s wife, supposedly a heroin addict acts, behaves and looks like she’s just really downtrodden rather than in a life-threatening cycle of dependency and addiction) (so the film seems to be saying that banning drugs is/was a silly thing to do as they don’t do anything to you either way, so that’s alright then) and that the only real problem is those greedy companies making money out of it all, but even they’re not really portrayed as making money out of misery, they just commit a bit of industrial espionage, corruption and murder (which is what corporations always do in this sort of film anyway). Because the film takes no attitude over its central conceit the story that follows is one that, although it happens to be about a particular drug, might just as well have been a maguffin about plans for a missile or a supercar.

    Cop movie clichés abound, presumably deliberately (it’s Christmas – I’m being charitable): Cowan, as is the way with intense cops investigating bad stuff that their boss is doing, gets taken off the case; his ex-partner (in policeman terms) wears a Hawaiian shirt and a leather jacket and may not be the most trustworthy man in the world; Cowan’s informant inside the precinct is a pathologist enjoying his last week at work and looking forward to a transfer to somewhere much nicer when Cowan asks him for some secret information (guess what – he’s doomed!). I suppose the film is using the ‘tropes’ of the police movie in order to ground the film in a grammar which enables the humble viewer to keep tabs of developments. Or I could just say that those are merely some examples of the film’s shameless film-making-by-numbers approach.

    Cowan is an unengaging lead, Harry Lloyd is underused, the villains (especially Robert Bathurst) are neither here nor there, Jonathan Pryce’s accent is a bit too funny. The film-makers seem to be more concerned with the film’s style, except there doesn’t seem to be one. It’s all feels a bit like either a BLADE RUNNER tribute movie (and I didn’t like BLADE RUNNER so that butters no parsnips with me) or a BLADE RUNNER rip-off (ditto). NARCOPOLIS seems to have several ideas and approaches none of which mesh together, so you’re left with a film which is a watchable mess but which would have been much better if the film-makers could have found a better framework in which to explore their ideas. As it stands NARCOPOLIS is an adequate runaround with good ideas, but it should have been much more than that.

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