Spiderhead ★★

Some actors were born to play certain roles, and then find issues breaking away from that role that made them famous. Others use that success as a springboard to other things, and return to their franchise and role at various points throughout its run in popularity. For every Harrison Ford there's a Mark Hamill, with Ford's ability to flex his acting muscle and forge a successful career away from Han solo the polar opposite to Hamill's rather limited success away from Luke Skywalker and Star Wars? It's yet to be seen whether Chris Hemsworth can shake off his trademark role as Asgard's God of Thunder, Thor, or that his star wattage alone can fuel a box office hit. He's had opportunities, Blackhat, box office flop, Men in Black: International, box office flop, In the Heart of the Sea, box office flop, and besides Rush, which did turn a healthy profit, his success has been limited when he's been the main attraction?

This film takes place in a facility that is experimenting with the effects of chemicals on test subjects, who are in fact, prisoners. They are there voluntarily, although all of them are convicted criminals, and experience a different type of prison environment, where they live seemingly freely with their own rooms, with structures in place that could lead to their sentence being reduced for taking part in the experiments. The drugs are administered through a MobiPak at the base of their spine, and are chemicals that alter their emotions and also their perception of reality. Teller's Jeff experiences several jolting episodes when he is drugged, and as those experiences, and what he sees done to others begin to effect his sense of right and wrong, he suspects that there is a bigger conspiracy behind the testing? The DNA for a good story is there, even some of the test subjects backstories are intriguing enough to invest in, but Chris Hemsworth's pharmaceutical tech magnet Steve, is a mixture of caricature that reminds us of similar fuck-nuggets that thought they could change the world.

Spiderhead is a bit of a head-fuck of a film, with an interesting premise, a half decent performance from Miles Teller, and some fascinating ideas for what a state-of-the-art penitentiary looks like. Obviously it shits the bed, and most of that intriguing concept falters within a script that thinks it is so much cleverer that what it is, and Hemsworth's performance reeks of over-the-top exuberance. I know Hemsworth doubled up as a producer here too, but Joseph Kosinski is a seasoned director who's just delivered what most people consider to be his most polished film to date, Top Gun: Maverick, and although that film was in the bank nearly two years ago, it would appear that Kosinski put all of his creative juices into Cruise's action flick. Don't get me wrong, there are several impressive scenes during this film, but much like most of these science-fiction/futuristic ideas on control, this one left me cold.

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