Film Review: Narcopolis

A gloomy sci-fi story with grungy style to burn, 'Narcopolis' is a strong, if not genre-changing, feature debut for actor-turned-writer/director Justin Trefgarne.
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London, 2044: Frank Grieves (Elliot Cowan of TV's “DaVinci's Demons”) is a "Dreck"–a cop charged with keeping order in a world where recreational narcotics have been legal for more than two decades. His mandate isn't to bust dealers and addicts, it's to make sure that rogue (read: independent) drug makers and retailers are prevented from snatching a slice of the narco-pie dominated by companies like Ambro, a leading purveyor of safe, cheap and lucrative drugs. And then he's called to a crime scene: A man's body has been found in a warehouse...

London, 2024: Frank Grieves is a mess. A former drug addict who's been on understandably shaky ground with his boss (Robert Bathurst) since accidentally shooting him in the face, Grieves is estranged from his wife, Angie (Molly Gaisford), and desperately afraid of screwing up his relationship with his nine-year-old son, Ben (Louis Trefgarne, writer-director Justin Trefgarne’s son), whom he adores.

He's called to the scene of what appears to be a suicide by drugs, which have been recently legalized to widespread public approval. But there's something odd about the scene: The corpse is hot–almost 115 degrees hot–and an autopsy reveals that it’s full of an unknown drug and part of the dead man's brain is missing. Odder still, there's no DNA match in any database: Who was this man and what the hell happened to him? Frank's investigation becomes something resembling a obsession, especially after he begins to suspect that Ambro is somehow linked to the case, which is right around the same time he starts to get pressure from above to back off. Suffice it to say that it's no coincidence that the vintage science-fiction novel Frank impulsively picks up for Ben is H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.

Narcopolis isn't a romp through the sunny fields of comically tangled strands of time; it's anchored by a weighty subtext involving notions of fate and free will, predestination and the degree to which the future might be subject to change. While less than subtle, its treatment of those themes generally manages to stay just this side of ponderous. The end result is good enough to make you want to see what Trefgarne does next.

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