Rating: 4 out of 5.

From writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Deadpool, Zombieland) and director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy, Top Gun: Maverick) comes sci-fi thriller Spiderhead. The film is an irresistible treat that plays up its pulpy mystery and psychological thriller elements; by the time Spiderhead starts up the 80s needle drops, I was in love. Miles Teller (Whiplash, Top Gun: Maverick) and Chris Hemsworth (Cabin in the Woods, Thor) headline as a prisoner and the boss in charge, respectively. Spiderhead utilizes Teller and Hemsworth in spectacular fashion as the two frenemies bond and butt heads.

Set in the “near future,” Spiderhead imagines an all-new program for convicts—if they willingly submit to medical drug experimentation, their sentence will be drastically reduced. Additionally, within “Spiderhead,” convicts will be allowed to roam freely thanks to big boss Steve (Hemsworth) and his open door policy. With an app-controlled device attached to their lower back called a Mobi Pack that injects the drugs, participants in the study must give their consent each day before administration. Specially formulated, the different types of testing include one that makes one laugh at just about anything, a stimulating love drug that almost instantly induces deep, sexual feelings for the other person in the room, and some strange one that causes one’s hunger to be insatiable.

Jeff (Teller) enters Spiderhead, and must test the love drug known tentatively as N40. Steve is constantly tweaking the amount administered, but his obsession for micromanaging Jeff goes far beyond simple meddling. Steve knows exactly how to push one’s buttons and get under their skin, even if his charisma and charm act as disarming forms of comfort. In this way, ruggedly handsome Chris Hemsworth was the perfect choice to embody this flawed authority figure. Jeff remains haunted by the ghosts of his past misdeeds. Discovering each player’s ultimate motives and backstories adds to the surprise and intrigue on display, so I will not be spoiling it here. Suffice to say, once Jeff’s backstory is fully revealed, it is well worth the wait.

An intense and exciting finale evokes Resident Evil games and classic action movies, punctuated by a fantastic soundtrack that includes Hall & Oates classic, “You Make My Dreams.” The hellish near-future of Spiderhead doesn’t seem unlike our own, where convicts are looked down as lesser people in society. Using them for profit while meddling with their well-being is an absolutely repulsive tactic. Even in its lesser moments, Spiderhead always has its eye on the bigger picture at hand. The romance subplot may feel like a bit of an unnecessary detour, yet it is brief enough not to matter. Hemsworth and Teller supercharge a zippy script filled with engaging moments. Best of all, one won’t even need emotion-enhancing stimulants to walk away from Spiderhead with a smile on your face!

Spiderhead starts a new drug trial when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, June 17th.

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