Jurnee Smollett and Miles Teller in Spiderhead.

The film with the most promising and suggestive title of the summer-movie season is, sadly, mostly a bore—wasting the talents of a strong cast.

Miles Teller stars as a prison inmate who volunteers for a drug trial in which a shifty organizer (Chris Hemsworth) is administering different pharmaceuticals via an implant on his volunteers’ backs. The drugs they are being given induce happiness, horniness, honesty—and super-violence.

The setting for the experiment is a typical room in which subjects sit in front of a two-way mirror and hear the administrator over an intercom. The experiments themselves are meant to be shocking, but they are really quite dull and predictable, with Teller and Hemsworth basically going through the motions.

There’s nothing challenging about what’s at play here, and the film manages to be bland, even when people are trying to off themselves. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who just directed Teller in the superior Top Gun: Maverick, the movie has more in common with his more meager sci-fi efforts (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy). Kosinski is the very definition of hit and miss.

Jurnee Smollett and Tess Haubrich do decent work as two people with depressing pasts who find themselves being lab rats to avoid prison. Smollett is especially good in a role that ultimately doesn’t give her enough to do.

Hemsworth gives it his all, but his character is not nasty enough to be scary, nor is he sympathetic enough to be likable; his character merely fills some screen time, with motivations that are quite preposterous in the end.

Spiderhead … it’s such a cool name for such a dud flick.

Spiderhead is now streaming on Netflix.

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