By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Super-power action tale falls short; violence, language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Uses the "power enabled" to symbolize oppressed groups/minorities who are treated with cruel prejudice and, as a result, are stuck in a cycle of poverty and crime as a means of survival.
Positive Role Models
While the lead character has a good heart, in trying to get the money to cover the medical bills to save his mother's life, he enters a life of crime and makes iffy decisions until the very end. The primary female characters are portrayed as weak. Diversity in supporting cast, but representations are questionable.
Violence & Scariness
Heavy gun violence. Several deaths, mostly from being gunned down (sometimes ruthlessly by police) but also strangling, stabbing, and electrocution.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scenes take place at a strip club; women in the background are scantily clad, and a woman's breast is exposed. A young woman is forced to be a crime lord's girlfriend.
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Frequent use of "f--k." Other strong language includes "a--hole," "bastards," "bitch," "d--k," and "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Scenes take place in the back room of a bar, and bottles of alcohol are seen in the background. Users of a fictional drug are shown enjoying the high with no negative consequences.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Code 8 is a sci-fi action drama about regular people who have super powers. They're considered dangerous and must struggle to get solid work, which has created generational poverty. Some have turned to crime as a means of survival, primarily drug trafficking. The drug featured in the movie is fictional, but there isn't a negative consequence to getting high. Users are shown experiencing pleasure but never seem incapacitated or incapable of functioning normally while under the influence. Gun violence is frequent, and some of the deaths caused by the "powered" are graphic and bloody. The police are portrayed as the enemy: They use military force (and robots), shoot first and ask questions later, and -- at least one case -- justify trying to frame a suspect. A crime boss operates a strip club where employees are (un)dressed for the job, including one woman whose breast is exposed. Strong language includes frequent use of "f--k" and more. The movie -- which aims to create empathy for and understanding of real-life minorities who face oppression -- was executive produced by Arrow headliner Stephen Amell and his cousin, Robbie Amell.
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What's the Story?
CODE 8 takes place in a society that doesn't trust the "power enabled." So Connor (Robbie Amell), a construction worker, has been taught to hide his own special abilities. But when his mother's chronic illness turns life threatening, Connor accepts work with a notorious drug lord to cover the mounting medical bills.
Is It Any Good?
If you're going to tackle a superhero scenario that's already been played out by Marvel, DC, and Pixar, it had better be good -- and this one is not. The Avengers (Captain America: Civil War), the X-Men (The Wolverine and X-Men: Apocalypse), and the Justice League (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) have all already used plotlines in which the world turns against superheroes, seeing them as a danger. The difference in this disappointing film from Stephen Amell (the CW's own Green Arrow), is that here, those with superpowers don't see themselves as heroes. Thus, when their powers become illegal, they turn to illegal activities -- like making and selling drugs.
The goal is noble: Clearly, the film is trying to create a touchstone for viewers to understand the plight of marginalized groups who are trying to get by despite systemic prejudice. But Code 8 ends up feeling like an insult to those communities. First, the only sympathetic "powered" character is a white male (Robbie Amell), and he's only buoyed to his destiny by the savviness of telekinetic Garrett (Stephen Amell, also white) and given opportunity by the mind-reading drug boss who runs the underworld (Greg Byrk, who's also white). The powered women and the men of color are shown as weak or ultimately ineffective. There is an Asian cop with a reason to have empathy for the powered -- but even he must operate on the white guy's terms. It all just proves that even when you have superpowers, it's still a white man's world.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Connor's decision to use his skills for illegal purposes to do something good for his mother. Is there ever a reason that justifies committing a crime?
How does Code 8 compare the treatment of those with powers to racist behavior in the real world? Did it feel relatable, and/or help you to feel empathy for those who face similar circumstances in our world?
Does the film glamorize drug use? Does the fact that it's a fictional drug make a difference?
How is the police force portrayed? How does that portrayal compare to those in other futuristic/action films you've seen? Do you think Hollywood's negative depictions of cops influences society? If so, how?
Discuss the use of profanity in the film. Why do you think writers include strong language when creating a screenplay?
- On DVD or streaming: December 13, 2019
- Cast: Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, Kari Matchett
- Director: Jeff Chan
- Studio: XYZ Films
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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