Despite still flying high on the success of Top Gun: Maverick – the film’s director shows he can’t hit a ‘home run’ every time.

Joseph Kosinski has been the director’s name on everyone’s lips in Hollywood after his sensational Tom Cruise-led sequel – but provides mixed results with this Netflix exclusive that at least tries something different.

Think Ex Machina – just nowhere near as good.

Kosinski re-teams with his Top Gun co-star Miles Teller and Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth (who also produces) for this thriller based on George Saunders’ dystopian short, Escape from Spiderhead.

Said ‘Spiderhead’ is a state-of-the-art penitentiary experimenting with potentially life-changing research chemicals – overseen by the sympathetically affable facility head Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth).

The test subjects – including Miles Teller’s Jeff who is reeling from killing his friend while drunk-driving – are technically prisoners of the state, who have volunteered for the project as they aim to reduce their sentence time.

All subjects – including Jeff’s love interest Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett who played Black Canary in Birds of Prey) – are administered daily runs of various drugs which alter their emotions and perceptions.

One that Jeff is regularly given is the ‘love drug’ N-40, which distorts his senses and drives him to have sex with two of his inmates – all apparently in the name of science.

But when a heavily controversial drug is introduced into the project – the intense physical and psychological pain-inducing Darkenfloxx – Jeff soon discovers that not everything is what it seems with Steve or the intentions of the facility.

Pretty much to go into more detail would be spoiler territory, but suffice to say – despite a smattering of noteworthy ideas – this never comes together into one truly coherent piece.

Hemsworth to be fair puts in a delightfully disturbing – almost Bond villain-esque –

performance that makes it eminently watchable throughout its duration. But sadly, that duration has too many messy (and sometime dull) periods.

And Kosinski undoubtedly deserves some kudos for not sticking to his comfort zone, but sadly he can’t quite pull together the spiderweb of ideas shooting wildly across this disjointed affair.

If you want to see it done so much better, then – as alluded too before – go watch

Ex Machina instead.

ESP Rating: 2.5/5

Gavin Miller

Netflix Exclusive, Out Now

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett, Mark Paguio, Tess Haubrich, Bebe Bettencourt & Nathan Jones

Running Time: 1 Hr 47 Mins

Director: Joseph Kosinski