Narcopolis (Sci-Fi) (2015)
Director: Justin Trefgarne
Writer: Justin Trefgarne
Stars: Elliot Cowan, Elodie Young, Rufus Wright, Jonathan Pryce
In the near future, a drug manufacturing company named ‘’Ambro’’ has developed an assortment of drugs and are heavily advertising them. They can do this because they’ve made sure legislation passed, making every form of narcotics legal as long as their own scientists professionally produce it.
Serving as Justin Trefgarne’s directorial debut ''Narcopolis'' premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Entirely financed by angel investors and with the help of the website ‘’Kickstarter’’, Trefgarne managed to collect a budget of just under a million pounds. Later produced by T Squared Films and distributed by Altitude Film Distribution and IFC Midnight alongside a tie-in comic book.
The narrative follows narcotics officer Grieves (Elliot Cowan), a Dreck which is the term used for officers involved with combating the black market. Since there is now a large conglomerate making sure the city is only supplied with ‘’safe’’ drugs that won’t have people overdose or be harmed in other such ways, this is one of the few remaining tasks narcotics agents have left. Soon the story points towards a new drug, as Grieves finds a body that cannot be identified, nor can the drug in the victim’s system.
It turns out it was a new experiment by Ambro; noticing Grieves’ attention towards it, they do anything possible to get him off the scent. Without much clarity apart from that quick synopsis, Trefgarne’s feature debut seems dead in the water. With a sci-fi setting, you’d think a higher budget would be needed to create an immersive and intriguing film; however, the cityscape ‘’Narcopolis’’ shows us is near our current time and thus only has limited sci-fi elements sprinkled along the grimy streets. It’s almost like a dressed-down version of ‘’Blade Runner’’ when you think of it but with a far-less defined story.
Using a lower budget or not, the script itself is never really approachable or understandable either, from a rational perspective. While anything is possible in a sci-fi flick, in this case, even within its bubble, it’s a slightly insane premise. The fact that Trefgarne uses this huge company as a major plot point, and you’re just supposed to believe everyone, even non-addicts, are now switching from Coca-Cola to Cocaine is highly unlikely, even with the best marketing campaign possible.
Crude world-building, the lack of confluence and an unlikeable main character don’t leave much to be enjoyed within the shabby script of ‘’Narcopolis’’. Even having Jonathan Price on board doesn’t help, making him Russian just to add a stereotype. I’m always appreciative of creativity and when it’s used well. Sadly Trefgarne wasn’t able to create something unique and exciting in his first low budget movie.
Unlike the drugs made in the film, I might consider taking hard drugs if it would mean I never had to watch ‘’Narcopolis’’ again.