With this startling and hilarious film, rapper-turned-film-maker Boots Riley brings back a kind of satirical edge that has been sorely missing from American cinema.
Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Atlanta) stars as Cassius Green, a young man living in what appears to be present-day Oakland, California. Facing considerable financial pressure, Cassius wants to avoid signing up for WorryFree, an organisation that pays your bills in return for a lifetime of servitude.
Cassius gains employment as a telemarketer, but struggles to do well. Then an older employee explains the secret to sales success on the phone: use a "white" voice.
Cassius follows his advice. Voiced by comic actor David Cross when on the phone, he makes huge advances and is promoted to the hallowed status of "Power Caller".
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But his newfound status exposes him to corporate secrets that may just turn his mind inside out.
Those secrets involve a high-concept twist that has been kept entirely out of the marketing materials in a refreshing display of restraint. The twist takes the film into a new tonal space that may be initially jarring, but is ultimately highly effective.
Stanfield is fantastic as the bewildered Cassius, and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) brings a lot to the table as his partner Detroit, a performance artist whose signature work amusingly references the 1985 cult classic kung fu musical The Last Dragon. while Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) also gives great support as a smarmy corporate bro.
Although it seeks to highlight racist hypocrisies, debt-enslavement and other highly relevant modern concerns, this film maintains a metaphorical approach that prevents it from ever being preachy.
Sorry to Bother You
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer
Director: Boots Riley
Running time: 111 minutes
Rating: R16 (Violence, drug use, sexual material, offensive language & content that may disturb)
Verdict: Just crazy enough to work