Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

"Frustratingly, the film isn’t really concerned with its setting, and the large bulk of the plot is a time travel caper that’s solvable within a few minutes of it being revealed."

The future is here, and it’s drugs. Legalised drugs that is, manufactured by super-corp Ambro, all guaranteed safe by their mysterious chairman Todd Ambro (James Callis) who suffered as a child at the hands of addicts. He sought to change the system, and to eliminate the chance of addiction ruining the life of anyone else. By the film’s start in 2044, it’s assumed he has achieved his goal, but two rogue agents have other ideas as they break into an Ambro facility to do… well, it’s not entirely apparent what they’re doing, but it’s bad enough for Ambro that one of the agents meets a sticky end.

Rather than pursue this slick future thriller, Narcopolis rewinds time 20 years and instead focuses on Frank Grieves (Elliot Cowan), a gumshoe “dreck “- or narcotics agent - who cleans up after illegal drug sellers whilst a fledgling Ambro company attempts to solidify its grasp on a market in flux. He has a strained family life, and his professional life isn’t much better, the prerequisite concerned wife and corrupt boss both make an appearance. Neither of these situations are aided by the appearance of an unidentifiable corpse, and the subsequent appearance of an unidentifiable woman, both worrying in a future where DNA and designer drug footprints are used to identify perps.

Copy picture

There are hints at a great world here, with fears of energy shortages, the dangers of illicit drugs versus sanctioned narcotics, and the lives of people hemmed in between both of these issues. Frustratingly, the film isn’t really concerned with its setting, and the large bulk of the plot is a time travel caper that’s solvable within a few minutes of it being revealed. Still, we’re forced to follow Grieves’ perspective on the whole things even though the heavy handed hints come thick and fast, but without real impact. Time travel is always touchy and the mechanisms here are ill-thought out, being at once omnipotent and useless as the plot demands. Callis and Callow are both great in their roles, the former a posturing company man and the latter a gruff, determined force of justice, but they both seem to be after an intangible macguffin.

Jonathan Pryce makes an odd appearance as a scientist with a critical aversion to mobile phone radiation, whilst time-travelling freedom fighter Eva (Elodie Yung) is sadly underused. The concept here is an intriguing one, but I’m not sure why a time-travel thriller felt like the logical route to take a story about narcotics. By the time the ending rolls around, it's far too late to matter, and the implications are hazy at best. The aesthetic of the film is exceptional, and it's great to see such convincing world building in a low budget sci-fi flick. With all the effort put into making it feel like a rational setting, its confusing to see it abandoned entirely in the pursuit of something so derivative.

Releases In UK And Irish cinemas 25th September, and on DVD 28TH September. Opens in US theatres, on demand and digital October 2.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2015
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A troubled cop tackles a case in a near-future world where all recreational drugs are legal.
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