Review: Narcopolis (EIFF)

Narcopolis 1

Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Directed by Justin Trefgarne

Starring Eliot Cowan, Jonathan Pryce, Robert Bathurst, James Callis, Harry Lloyd, Elodie Young

In a world where drugs are legal, corporations rule and the future is in flux…

Split between two futuristic timelines (2044 and 2024), Narcopolis is a Blade Runner wannabe that impresses visually while dropping the ball in some other key departments. DaVinci’s Demons’ star Eliot Cowan is a great, well-deserved lead, often dressed almost exactly like Rick Deckard in Blade Runner. He’s Frank, a ‘dreck’, a cop responsible for cleaning up the mess on the streets caused by the legalisation of recreational narcotics.

Investigating the discovery of a disfigured body in an out-of-the-way facility Frank is drawn into a criminal corporate conspiracy that spans two timelines and ultimately involves his own family. While this latter development might be meant as a twist or surprise, it is pretty evident from early on in the movie unfortunately. The bulk of the film is set in 2024, just nine years from now (although all paper books appear to have disappeared, as a print copy of The Time Machine is described as rare). The surface sheen of this techno-noir future is well realised, although it seems unlikely to come to pass in under a decade.

Cowan is supported by a series of ‘guest star’ big names who pop in and out for cameos that probably took just a day each to shoot, among them Game of Thrones’ Jonathan Pryce as a scientist allergic to technology, Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis as head of the drug pushing corporation Ambro, and Harry Lloyd as a future tech warrior. There are a couple of weak links on the acting front, notably Cosima Shaw as Frank’s estranged wife and the director’s own son Louis Trefgarne as Frank’s tech genius child.

The one thing Narcopolis is not lacking in is ambition: in fact, it probably has too much given its clearly budget-limited depiction of the future (one corporate office hilariously seems to be lacking in any furniture—maybe that’ll be the way of things in 2024?). The film also features a great fight scene that takes place entirely within a toilet cubicle filmed from the outside.

In the end, Narcopolis plays out to a predictable conclusion, but it has some fun getting there and certainly looks stylish doing it, even if the script, the tight budget, and some of the acting lets things down a bit.

Verdict: A valiant attempt with ambition outstripping resources, 5/10

Brian J. Robb

For further details visit Edinburgh International Film Festival

Narcopolis will be released nationwide in the UK in September 2015.


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