Netflix's Altered Carbon is Blade Runner meets Demolition Man

In the far-future of a Californian city, looming neon skyscrapers tower above a seedy, rain-soaked underbelly, where pushers and prostitutes stalk the alleyways alongside scar-faced assassins.

It is against this Blade Runner-esque backdrop that ambitious new Netflix series Altered Carbon - based on Richard K Morgan's cyberpunk novel - pitches its head-spinning concept.

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This is a world where a person's consciousness can be stored on a disc, and transferred into a new human host (amusingly known as a 'sleeve'). Cue deadly super-soldier Takeshi Kovacs being brought back from the dead in a completely different body, 250 years after he was gunned down by government enforcers.

His task? To investigate the attempted murder of corporate magnate Laurens Bancroft.

The results are akin to a well-made, pulpy B-Movie. But with interesting sci-fi questions too.

'90s style action hero

If the setting and Noir-style touches echo Blade Runner, then the story - and, at times, the tone - are pure Demolition Man.

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Like the Stallone movie, this deals with the idea of being brought back into a civilization way down the line (though in this case, it's centuries rather than decades).

It also revolves around the kind of buff, gruff, square-jawed action hero we haven't really seen since the '90s; quick of growl, scowl and kung-fu kick.

Joel Kinnaman, who starred in the Robocop remake, is well and truly stacked here as the muscle-bound frame inhabited by enhanced killing machine Kovacs.

The tantalising set-up excuses the near-overload of early exposition. We learn things as he does - though there are perhaps less fish-out-of-water elements than you'd think.

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Our protagonist soon adjusts to the idea of waking up a long way into the dystopian future (though it's hinted that not much has really changed since his violent, murky time).

Eye-catching visuals; fascinating implications

World-building is one of Altered Carbon's strongest attributes, both superficially and thematically.

There's no doubt that the CGI-rendered cityscapes look impressive, as does the eye-catching production design of each individual location.

Altered Carbon's world looks gorgeous (Photo: Netflix)

We visit hologram strip bars and Edgar Allan Poe themed AI hotels. And then there's the Ivory Tower of Laurens Bancroft, high above the clouds, which comes complete with indoor trees, terracotta warriors and stained-glass windows enhancing the blinding light.

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The fascinating implications of the story's technology are neatly thread through the narrative too.

There are existentially horrifying aspects, such as little girls being reincarnated into the bodies of old women.

Murder victims can testify against their attackers. Criminals can be brought back as slaves to corporations, with all their rights stripped away.

Religious fanatics, meanwhile, protest the ethics of a world where people can be brought back from death time and time again. What does this mean for an after-life?

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Ortega escorts Kovacs through a world where life and death have become blurred (Photo: Netflix)

There's even the potential implication that racism may be a thing of the past. The main character is a Japanese man inhabiting a white body, while other ethnic swaps are shown to be routine too.

A fun futuristic world to devour

That said, at least to begin with, this is fun, enjoyable stuff that leans more towards hard-boiled entertainment than cerebral head-scratching.

There's exciting bullet-spewing, masonry-shredding action, and Kinnaman plays it totally straight as a mumbling, matter-of-fact one man army.

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James Purefoy, meanwhile, is instantly engaging as Bancroft, who is wealthy enough to afford satellite back-up for his consciousness, and may or may not have ensnared Kovacs in a vast conspiratorial web.

Strong shades of Noir abound (Photo: Netflix)

Martha Higareda also makes an impression as cynical cop Ortega - who is uncomfortable with having Kovacs on the loose in her city.

Highly cinematic and with a strong central premise, Altered Carbon feels like a throwback to action sci-fi flicks of the '80s and '90s; blending its rough and ready anti-hero with a bizarre, hostile future.

If you're looking for highbrow drama you're likely to be disappointed. But if you're looking for a fun futuristic world to devour and some exhilarating action, you've come to the right place.

Altered Carbon hits Netflix on Friday February 2

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