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February 28, 2024 / Netflix

Starring: Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, Sirena Gulamgaus, Jean Yoon, Alex Mallari Jr., Aaron Abrams

Directed By: Jeff Chan

In this sequel to Code 8, Connor (Robbie Amell) is out of prison and working as a janitor at a community center, having cut ties with his former criminal associate Garrett (Stephen Amell). Connor's attempt at staying out of trouble is destroyed when he's forced to help 14-year-old Pav (Sirena Gulamgaus) escape from a pack of corrupt officers led by Sergeant King (Alex Mallari Jr.). King uses the newly launched robotic K9’s to track Pav down, while Connor finds himself once again reaching out to Garrett and his crew for help, but can he trust the man who landed him in prison in the first place?

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Code 8: Part II builds upon the engrossing world building of the first film and takes it to new heights with wicked visuals, a more engaging story and a great lead performance from Robbie Amell that confirms that sometimes bigger is better.

What started off as a small Canadian short film back in 2016 has now launched a film series with Code 8: Part II hitting Netflix this week. It should not come as a big surprise given the star power of Stephen and Robbie Amell, both starring on popular television series in recent years, but few could have guessed that the short film that is the roots for this sequel would become popular enough to result in a Netflix sequel to its feature film adaptation. Picking up the story several years after the events of Code 8, the sequel sees Connor drawn back into Garrett’s orbit as he finds himself responsible for protecting a young powered girl who is being hunted down by both the police and Garrett’s criminal empire. Once again, the film takes place in a rich science fiction world which is beautifully captured on camera, but with new writers on board for this sequel, not only does Code 8: Part II capture the same tone and excitement of the original film, but it creates a more emotionally engaging film that level ups the original and will leave audiences wanting more stories from this world.

Sequels always try to be bigger and bolder than their predecessor, which sometimes can be their hamartia, but in the case of Code 8: Part II, it is part of the film’s success. With a studio behind the picture, the filmmakers were able to attempt more effect driven sequences which add a great cinematic flair to the film. The sequences with Connor’s powers, accompanied by slow motion, create some memorable shots and action packed moments throughout the film. The emphasis on practical VFX rather than CGI to bring to life the Guardians and K9s results in one terrific looking film that you just cannot replicate with computer imaging, with both visual effects and look of the film helping to create an exciting experience from start to finish. This means no disrespect to the original film, which for a crowd funded project features some great visual effects, but Code 8: Part II just takes it all to the next level.

But it is the addition of writers Sherren Lee and Jesse LaVercombe to the writing team of the film that truly elevates this sequel above its predecessor. Returning writers and director Jeff Chan and Chris Paré understand the world of Code 8 and know how to elevate the science fiction and crime elements of the story to create a larger sequel, but Lee and LaVercombe, who just collaborated with Robbie Amell on this year’s Float, bring a heart and understanding of the characters that adds an emotional weight to the film. Connor’s relationship with the young girl he is protecting from both Garrett and the police becomes the beating heart of the film, fuelling both Connor’s arc over the course of the film and emotional stakes that truly draws the audience into the deadly situation that Connor finds himself in. Having seen Float and being a huge fan of Lee and LaVercombe’s work on Float, their DNA is not only all over this film but unmissable. It not only shows what talented storytellers Lee and LaVercombe are, but also raises this sequel above the mere superpowered crime drama that it appears to be on its surface and allows it to become a deeper and more personal story for Connor.

Returning to Code 8: Part II are producers and stars Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell reprising their roles as Connor and Garrett respectively. Whenever the Amell cousins share the screen together, there is normally an infectious chemistry between them, but given where their characters parted ways at the end of the first film, this time they are playing with a fractured dynamic which they both embody perfectly. There is an undeniable tension between the two on screen that fuels the conflict of the film story as Connor finds himself stuck between Garrett’s criminal empire and the local police department. Stephen Amell is clearly having fun with a more villainous side to Garrett, unleashing a darkness to himself while still having some light, comedic moments that call back to some volatile film villains such as the Joker and Silva from Skyfall. But this is Robbie Amell’s film. Robbie Amell has the most complex character arc as Connor who is dealing with his past with Garrett, the responsibility he feels for Pavani, the young powered girl he is trying to protect; re-embracing his powers after hiding from them for the past couple of years, and still grappling with the death of his mother who he could not save with his powers. With all of this thematic material, Robbie Amell embraces Connor with a care and understanding that allows him to build emotional walls around Connor that he slowly breaks down over the course of the film as he grows a connection with Pavani and is forced to fight to survive the circumstances he finds himself in. Alongside his performance in Float, it's another great performance from Robbie Amell that continues to prove his range as an actor and begs the question why he is not as big of a star as his cousin.

Aside from the Amell cousins, Alex Mallari Jr. makes for a great antagonist as King, leaving an unmissable mark on the film especially while sharing the screen with Stephen Amell. Sirena Gulamgaus is good as Pavani, definitely finding a stronger performance in the film’s first half when her character is more of a rogue scoundrel but is not the strongest of child actors that we have seen in recent memory. And while he has a very limited amount of screentime, it was fun to see Aaron Abrams return after starring in both the original film and the short film as a nod to this world’s roots.

While I enjoyed the first Code 8 film and was intrigued by the notion of its sequel, I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the sequel more than the original… as that is something that does not happen often in the world of cinema. But Code 8: Part II not only runs with a bigger and bolder feel to the world established in the first film, but with writers Sherren Lee and Jesse LaVercombe’s involvement in the screenplay, the story finds a deeper and more stirring emotional connection with its audience than the first film was ever able to establish. With some stunning visual moments throughout the film, action packed sequences and emotional stakes that truly take the story to the next level, and a lead performance from Robbie Amell that carries the entire film from start to finish, Code 8: Part II is an upgrade in every way possible to its predecessor that delivers the exciting science fiction crime thriller that audiences are expecting from it.

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