Adapted from a New Yorker short story, the premise involves a near-future penitentiary that doesn’t require any bars, since the inmates are controlled and given the run of the place in exchange for wearing surgically implanted devices that let their keepers control them through mind-altering drugs.
It’s not, but the extent to which Steve is transforming them into human guinea pigs comes through slowly, as he seems to be seeking real-world applications of this technology that might extend well beyond prison, in a “Don’t trust big pharma” manner.
Meanwhile, a more conventional bond begins to form between two of the inmates, Jeff (Teller), who seems to be one of Steve’s favorite subjects; and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), who like Jeff is nursing scars from the outside world.
For Netflix, the enticing mix of elements in “Spiderhead” — a truly lousy title, incidentally, the marketability of arachnids notwithstanding — is probably enough to vault the movie into its most-popular tier, which can surely be hailed as some kind of victory by the criteria that the service uses to keep score.
Still, it’s more of a gift to the Netflix marketing department than it is to viewers who brave its web. Because this is one of those movies that’s forgotten almost as soon as it ends, and it doesn’t even require any chemical intervention in order to erase the memory.
“Spiderhead” premieres June 17 on Netflix. It’s rated R.