In an effort to revive the flagging genre of persecuted super-powered mutants, XYZ Films and Colony Pictures have produced Code 8, a sci-fi/superhero gem based on a marvelous short film of the same title from 2016. The story and direction springs from a gentleman named Jeff Chan, who I know absolutely nothing about, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. This is a true indie film, seemingly coming out of nowhere to rocket up the charts of streaming movies mostly by word of mouth.
After a quick rummage into the cabinet for some popcorn and a hiss pop of a beer opening, I settled in to watch Jeff Chan’s meteoric rise to stardom. Code 8 begins with a well-edited Clockwork Orange-style news brief to ensure the watcher is up to speed on where the film is headed. It’s a bit like a voice-over to explain the plot and backstory, but churched up some in order to catch the viewer’s interest. I do not want to spoil any part of this movie with even a brief synopsis of the plot, but let’s just say it’s mutants, it’s the general public distrust, it’s some drugs running rampant — the usual cadre of fundamental aspects for a drug deal in La-La Land story with a twist of X-Men.
However, Code 8 is edited and paced with precision, and I was pretty well hooked after a few minutes of absorbing the gritty style of the film. At a scant 100 minutes, the story has to move along jauntily, and very few moments of this movie are wasted as Chan weaves a story that’s difficult to pigeon-hole into a specific genre. He borrows heavily from a few- superhero training montage, bank robbery planning, cool sci-fi effects, shootem-up action, the whole gambit. Instead of a jumbled mix of elements, these wild ingredients mesh together seamlessly into a feast. The CGI is sharp and clean, the pacing produces a palpable tension, and the characters are so reachable, even in the fantastic, that the viewer will cheer for the drug dealer and not even be sure why. The lack of a moral compass is present, as Chan instead spends most of his time ignoring those themes — wisps of blame falls on society, but instead he wisely uses his characters to just tell a damn good story.
By the end, perhaps a wince or two at the conclusion, and some obvious holes. During the film a few threads of dialogue between police chatter on the radio are strained. Most of the themes and character motivations are clichéd, but I’m not one to eat a real tasty burger and fries, and complain that the dessert cake was a touch dry. This movie is well worth the hour-and-a-half viewing time.
[Editor Note: Code 8 is the #1 “Movie in the U.S. Today” streaming on Netflix at the time of this writing.]
Code 8 was co-produced and directed by Jeff Chan. It was written by Chris Pare, from a story by Chan. Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, Sung Kang, Alex Mallari, Jr., and Aaron Abrams star.
For full effect, check the excellent IndieGoGo-financed 10-minute short, viewable here:
A desperate young man possessing special powers clashes with a militarized police force after committing a petty crime.
Image courtesy of Vertical Entertainment