‘Code 8’– Unrealized Promise
by Ben Nietzel
April 18, 2020

“Code 8” is a Netflix original that offers another take on the superhero genre. In this world, power-enabled people are relegated to second class status. A super-powered construction worker is forced to turn to criminal activity to get enough money to save his dying mother.

Pro – The cousins Amell

The film follows Connor Reed (Robbie Amell), a down-on-his-luck 20 something unable to find gainful employment in a world bent on discriminating against “powered” people. In need of quick money to pay for a life-saving surgery for his mother, he falls in with a criminal gang. Amell is great in the film, and gives the audience someone to root for despite the criminal enterprises he engages in. Connor quickly learns his power level far exceeds what he believed it to be. His entry into the underworld is facilitated by a low-level captain, Garrett (Stephen Amell). In real life, Stephen is Robbie’s older (in both age and stardom) cousin, and the dynamic of the film feels greatly enhanced by that bond, even if the physical similarities are a bit too close at times. They also worked together to bring the film to life using crowd funding to finance the project.

Pro – The first 80%

“Code 8” does a great job of world building. It creates a believable world of the near future where technology and fear devalue superpowers. In other narratives, these people would have been superheroes, but here they are second-class citizens constantly monitored and struggling to thrive. Connor’s situation feels desperate enough to justify his decision to start working for a criminal gang, while his good-hearted nature gives the audience someone to root for and sympathize with. 

The action in the film is surprisingly good. Visuals are excellent and look every bit a high dollar Hollywood film. Of note are the “Robocop-esque” drones that drop robotic police officers to aid in the control and capture of the “powered” population. The tension builds as the story moves forward, and it’s very compelling as Connor is forced to push deeper and deeper into a life of crime to get his mom the help she needs. It all culminates with a Heat-style set piece that is as enjoyable as anything put out in the last six months.

Con – the last 20%

Unfortunately, after this scene, the movie struggles. There seems to be no clear plan on how to bring the film to a close. To facilitate a timely finish, characters begin to act in a way that is either completely illogical (the police) or out of step with what we know of them (Connor). Whether due to budget constraints or just a lack of ideas on how to wrap the film up, the last fifth of the film is disappointing. It feels rushed and disconnected to what comes before. It’s unfortunate because it really ruins what was up to that point a very enjoyable film.

“Code 8” has a great premise and awesome start. The fact that its genesis was a crowd-funding project is all the cooler. I was all set to highly recommend this film until the finish took a lot of shine out of it. If you’re home, bored, and can watch it for free, it’s probably still worth your time, but be prepared for a hot start and cold finish.

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