LONDON: It doesn’t seem like there’s much room left in the superhero sphere for any truly novel takes on the genre. So while Canadian sci-fi movie “Code 8” might not be reinventing the wheel, exactly, writer/director Jeff Chan does deserve some credit for wringing an ounce of originality from an otherwise overcrowded creative space.
In a world where four percent of the population have developed superpowers, such gifted individuals have proven integral to the genesis of the USA industrial complex, only to be discarded by society when increasing levels of automation relegates the so-called ‘Powers’ to second-class citizens.
Forced to scrounge for undocumented work, and trafficked for narcotics derived from their spinal fluid, the world has turned against the likes of Connor Reed (Robbie Amell) — a simple guy trying to make enough money to take care of his sick mother. With an increasingly oppressive society clamping down on Powers through the use of omnipresent flying drones and sinister robot soldiers, Reed takes more than his fair share of licks before, predictably, sticking two fingers up at the world and throwing in with a group of suitably charismatic and diverse criminals, headed up by Garrett Kelton (Stephen Amell), a mid-level mercenary who spots electricity-wielding Reed’s untapped potential for bank jobs.
Equal parts heist flick, gangster movie and superhero film, “Code 8” manages to hit all three marks pretty well. Though his movie clocks in at a modest 100 minutes, Chan manages to paint a vivid, gritty criminal underworld, while Robbie and Stephen Amell (paternal cousins off screen) bring suitable levels of naivety and cynicism to their respective characters.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element here is Chan’s restraint. The film’s sparing use of CGI and sprawling set pieces may have been, in part, due to penny pinching (the movie was funded by an Indiegogo campaign), but it actually serves to underscore the story’s portrayal of just how dangerous the world is for Powers — superhuman abilities are not something to be used in public, and those showing off their gifts tend to fall foul of the all-seeing government.
While the plot twists and double crosses are relatively easy to spot, that shouldn’t detract from what “Code 8” has to offer: an interesting world, decent performances and, unusually for films of this ilk, a favoring of substance over style.