Review by Dan Skip Allen
Lately, the film and television media have decided to take a stand against drugs and shady pharmaceutical companies that have taken advantage of the pain and suffering of people who need medication for various reasons. Spiderhead goes to the next level and follows prisoners of a state-of-the-art penitentiary whose captors experiment on them after choosing to be a part of this study rather than go to a regular prison for their crimes.
Chris Hemsworth plays a doctor who is trying to find the perfect medication to alleviate crime in the country in the near future. He has a group of prisoners who have signed up for this medical trial. A few prisoners (Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett, Tess Haubrich) have various interactions that help the enigmatic doctor and his assistant determine how the medications are working on these volunteers.
This film is trying to say something important about experimental drugs and medications and how they can help society, but I felt the message got lost in the development of the characters and the story within the script. It isn't easy to determine why rich people want to use poor people or, in this case, prisoners as guinea pigs for their experiments. They think they can do whatever they want, and the government will sign off if it benefits them or their perception of what is good for society.
This film drops the ball on what it should be saying and doing. The writers of the Deadpool films, Rett Reece and Paul Wernick, and the director of Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski, are why this film got made, along with the cast attached to it, but all this talent doesn't make for a great movie. Netflix saw these guys attached and probably thought this would be a good investment. The end product turned out to be a dud, though.
Hemsworth is trying to channel some kind of genius with a groundbreaking idea, and he uses fast-talking slick dialogue to get his way most of the time. He uses the past lives of his patients against them, so they reluctantly acknowledge, agreeing to whatever drug he's using on them at a given time. He's not a good villain and should probably stick to playing Thor in the MCU.
Teller and Smollett are pretty good in the film, but they are typecast into roles of characters we've seen a thousand times before. The little guy and/or girl are trying to overcome their oppressor. Even though, in this case, it seems like they got a pretty good thing going for them. It's all a big disguise, though, so they can be lulled into a false sense of security. The filmmakers had a good premise that they wasted.
Spiderhead is a film trying to say something meaningful, but it is wasted in the end product. The filmmakers and writers are first-rate, and the cast is filled with a couple of heavy hitters having a moment right now. This film's message about experimental drugs for the greater good could have been done better, and people would be applauding it. Instead, it's sloppily executed by some industry pros, making this a big disappointment.
Spiderhead hits Netflix on June 17.