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'Narcopolis' (2015)

Review

There are not many movies that I finish and cannot stop thinking about afterward. Not the simple thought of "Hmm...that was a good movie...," but the feeling that you had no idea the ride you were about to get on and you wish that it would never end. I full well went into this film with certain assumptions based on the synopsis; those notions were surprisingly but literally shattered by the ingenious plot of this story. Without further ado, let's get right into it.

The most important plot twist in this entire film is shown to you right in the onset of the very first scene. I won't spoil it for those that enjoy the hunt, but it isn't very often that such an important piece of information is displayed that close to the prologue. The backdrop is a near-future, London with the main precedent focusing on the decriminalization of virtually every type of narcotic and designer drug. Detective Frank Grieves (Elliot Cowan) is a recovering addict that is trying to live the newly outcast and counter-culture life of a "void." The name given to those that wish to remain drug free in an ever-increasingly intoxicated society. From uppers to downers, everything is now completely legal, so the focus of public safety shifts. In modern society, we commend the apprehension of drug dealers and console current or recovering addicts. Within this drug-legal society, the ones who are the new-old "sober" are the outcasts and are all but spat upon.

As you may suspect, with the legalization of narcotics and designer drugs, the supply must meet this new demand. A corporation known as Ambro (with legally licensed products) takes to the streets; and with a firm grip on the cities' infrastructure and its police precincts, begins to rake in the endless money train. Of course, simply legalizing the substances does not take away the damage that they cause, which is why some choose to take the path less traveled and "void" their systems. Not much is given to us in the way of statistics as to what legalizing the drug market accomplishes; but rather we are shown what some of the effects are that manifest as a result. Most notably is the Ambro, door-to-door, drug dealer that can now sell you a bag full of whatever you wish, just like your favorite girl scout cookies.

While investigating a suspicious murder, the already unpopular "void," detective Grieves begins to make more enemies than friends. However, the friends that he does make are not the sort that he could have ever imagined. The combination of corrupt, corporate money and a weakened, drug-addicted, police force makes for a very bad time for the sober detective, and his life gets even worse when he apprehends a woman, Eva Gray (Elodie Yung). Eventually she tells him the truth of who she is and her level of involvement in the case he is attempting to solve. With that I will end my breakdown, as I truly wish for you to experience the magic of the reveal in this film. As I said with the introduction, it is not often that the plot is so cleverly hidden, and for me to spoil it here would cheapen the result.

I would, however, like to address some of the clear ethical controversies that arise, and your conclusions may not mimic my own. Serious drug usage is, and always will be, a serious plague upon our world. This film provides us a window into what that world might look like if those drugs were legally allowed to be used by anyone, anytime, and anywhere. At first, you can see a clear distinction between who is sober and who is not. Then, as the movie progresses, that distinction is revealed to be a complete (although ingenious) abuse of our natural assumptions. There is one memorable scene where Grieves is running down a suspect inside of a night club, and the crowd turns on him. They do react much in the same manner you would if you had a gun in your face, but the crazy part about this scene is that they begin to act like he is the one drugged out of his mind. The reason I found this so controversial is that it is at that moment (and within the next couple of scenes) you realize that the rest of the characters have been on drugs the entire time. If you decide to watch it again, or just think about it, that little fact makes you re-think every character within a new light.

This movie is chalk full of ethical controversy. Allowing people to do what they want and when they want to is the essence of freedom, but at what point do we begin to question what that absolute freedom will produce? How much damage will we allow ourselves to do to ourselves before we put a measure of control in place? If we do put measures in place, do we or would we know if those measures would become too far reaching? Ultimately, can we as humans achieve what any of us would consider to be true "happiness" without losing complete control; or worse, losing the very thing that makes us human, free will. It is my supreme hope that you not only watch this film, but thoroughly enjoy it as much as I did. This movie will easily be place in the top ten list that I am currently working on for a future post, and I am extremely happy that I experienced it. Thank you for reading!