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code 8 part ii.jpg

'Code 8 Part II' Review: Firestorm and Arrow Take on the Cops

By Lindsay Traves | Film | February 28, 2024 |

By Lindsay Traves | Film | February 28, 2024 |

code 8 part ii.jpg

Maybe you’ve heard this one before. In a not-so-distant future, in a warped version of our reality, there exists powered people. These powered people aren’t dominating or saving society, they’re relegated to the blue-collar workforce, forced to register themselves and their abilities, left on the margins of society. 2019’s Code 8 chronicled the story of a down-on-his-luck-powered “electric” named Connor (Robbie Amell) who finds himself desperate enough to run with a powered street gang under Garrett (Stephen Amell). Bouncing between being the good guy law-abiding citizen, and the underground criminal, Connor ends up pulling us through a story of marginalization, policing, wealth inequality, and drugs, adding a twist to the age-old question, “Is it ethical to steal bread for your starving family?”

The crowd-funded Code 8 was a surprise hit, working with a limited budget to craft a well-executed gritty science fiction tale. Sometimes imperfect, and often smashing together too many familiar tropes from different sub-genres, Code 8 was ultimately a success. It never felt like its action sequences were hastily manufactured, and it’s elevated by the Amells’ star power. After its first attempted resurrection via a Quibi series (lol RIP, Quibi), Code 8 Part II has landed on Netflix with a new bag of problems for the underground hero.

Having lost his mother and after serving his jail time, Connor is back in the streets, working as a janitor trying to get his life straight by leaving Garrett and the criminal life in the rearview. Policing promises to have changed in Lincoln City; guardians- the humanoid lethal police robots- have been replaced with dog like robots that are allegedly programmed to only detain criminals. But, surprise, they’re lethal! Deep in the city, a powered man just like the Connor we once knew is desperately trying to save enough money to help his sister in school, but in a robbery gone wrong, he’s murdered by a robot police dog (and the cop controlling it). His sister, Pavani (Sirena Gulamgaus) witnesses the ordeal, making her a target for the cops desperate to hide their secrets.

On the run, Pavani is strapped to Connor who again has to straddle lines between protecting his own, working with the police for solutions, and trusting Garrett who has a newfound “understanding” with the police that allows him to operate his criminal enterprise. Their plan is to use a powered person to erase Pavani’s memory of the incident to protect her, but Garrett takes it a step further trying to erase her entire memory of her brother. Wanting to protect her from losing memories of someone she loves, Connor breaks Pavani free, setting him once again in the middle, this time with a surrogate sibling. This time, instead of being the reluctant protégé for Garrett, Connor is blurring ethical lines as the guardian of a young electric, morphing the story from Archenemy or Hancock to Firestarter.

Where the first feature felt like X-Men with a gangster twist, this movie comes out swinging with “ACAB.” It opens brightly with grim police news that quickly cuts to sparkling copoganda by way of a barbecue and a demonstration of the “non-lethal” police dogs. As the cop in charge, Alex Mallari J. gets to showcase duplicity as Sergeant Kingston, smiling for the cameras as the next great police hero, then as the lethal occupier in the shadows. Though it maybe shows too much faith in the “good apples” who could reform policing, Code 8 Part II is driving further home its point that those deemed “different” are only valuable for their working bodies, and any special skills need be tempered and tamed to keep them in their place, resulting in a system that forces them into poverty and criminality. There’s an argument to be made that two white guys lead the allegory of racialized people, but there’s some good faith in the casting and creators in this movie’s whole.

While I can’t guess the budget of this film, like its predecessor, the action sequences are impressively crafted for a small-budget indie. By creatively using close ups and simple special effects, they’re able to make the relevant sequences look restrained as opposed to crappy. The strongest set piece is near the top as Pavani’s brother evades the police dog, the scene borrowing from movies like Jurassic Park, showing off what creative staging can do to build tension and action.

It’s difficult to reconcile whether these movies are too ambitious or are too dependent on collecting what works from other projects. In both, there are obvious allusions to various sub-genres that would almost feel cliché but for them being placed beside each other in a new tale. They’re not going to compete with The Hunger Games, for instance, but they’re probably not meant to. As a sequel, Code 8 Part II and its creators seem aware of its position as a streaming science fiction darling that you click on during a scroll then call your friends to tell them how it was better than expected. (I’d probably say the same for ARQ, another Robbie Amell led indie sci-fi, and films like Tau, or I Am Mother).

Code 8 Part II isn’t entirely innovative as a story of oppression, but it’s an indie filmmaker’s take on a timely sci-fi allegory that uses its cast and budget well to craft a modern DTV sequel.

Code 8 Part II hits Netflix February 28, 2024