Narcopolis (2015)

(On DVD, February 2016) Ambitious but flawed, Narcopolis thinks big but can’t quite reconcile the two SF plot devices that it plays with. From an enigmatic opening to the film’s first half-hour, we’re stuck in a monothematic future in which drugs have been legalized for a while but no one can shut up about it: Every conversation is about drugs and their impact. It gets tiresome. Then Narcopolis goes crazy and takes on a different SF trope, or rather reveals what else was lurking in the background of its plot the whole time. The link between the two isn’t particularly effective, and the limits of Narcopolis’s budget prevent it from delivering a more fully realized vision of its story. This being said, there are a few good things here and there—more notably, Narcopolis doesn’t use its budget as an excuse to lock itself up in a single set with a handful of characters. But writer/director Justin Trefgarne doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with SF devices: he underscores some hints so much that they end up spoiling some would-be mysteries, and ends up being so on-the-nose in the last third of the film that what should have been a thrilling build-up and denouement ends up being a walk through predictable plot points. Coupled with the insistent world building in the first third, it makes for a Science Fiction film that doesn’t quite have the self-confidence to express itself fluently within the genre. That lack of fluidity definitely impacts the end result, which remains more promising than successful.

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