Sorry to Bother You (3 stars)

Sorry to Bother You

Dynamic debut feature from Boots Riley that's brash and unruly but sharply satirical

Boots Riley's surreal satire unfolds with all the spark and energy of a spinning Catherine wheel. The feature debut from this musician-activist turned filmmaker is a breathless, wildly inventive anti-capitalist tirade, as strident as it is comical. The mixture of social commentary, quasi science fiction and farce makes it hard to categorise. It also bites off way more than it can chew, but is so full of attitude and anarchy that resistance seems futile.

Riley makes the most of rising star Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, TV's Atlanta) who oozes empathy as downtrodden drudge Cassius Green. His chance at economic salvation comes with a new job at a soulless call centre where fellow telemarketer Langston (Danny Glover) advises him to 'use your white voice' if he is to stand any chance of making a sale.

The ploy works but Cassius also discovers a talent for getting inside the head of the people he is trying to target. It marks him out as a star employee, placing him within touching distance of becoming a PC (Power Caller). Will he buy into the system, sell his soul and risk losing his performance artist / activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson)?

Sorry to Bother You is brash and unruly but offers some sharp commentary on race, power, corporate greed and a working environment that feels like modern-day slavery. It is frequently funny, with a standout comic performance from Armie Hammer as a sarong-wearing CEO. It also runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way through, turning increasingly absurdist and revealing the inexperience of a filmmaker who doesn't seem to know how to end his film. Stanfield remains warm and sympathetic throughout, carrying the film through its bumpier patches. And, even with its flaws, this still announces the arrival of a striking new voice in American cinema.

General release from Fri 7 Dec.

Sorry to Bother You

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Boots Riley
  • Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler

Cassius (Stanfield) is a downtrodden drudge who becomes a star at a call centre after fellow telemarketer Langston (Glover) tells him to ‘use your white voice’. Brash, unruly and frequently funny satire on race, power, corporate greed and work; it doesn’t really know how to end, but it’s full of attitude and anarchy.

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