Review: Sorry to Bother You on Hulu
Reviewed by Sumiko Saulson
Stars: 5 of 5
Sorry to Bother You is a dark comedy sci-fi horror film currently available on Hulu wherein we gradually learn that Oakland, California resident Cassius “Cash” Green, who seems to be living in the present, is actually in a future dystopia where those in debt sell themselves into slavery by signing up for a lifetime of servitude with a company called WorryFree. Cash is played by hot newcomer Lakeith Stanfield. Stanfield made his debut in on the indie film circuit 2013 and subsequently appeared in serious biopic films like Selma, Snowden, and Straight Out of Compton, but is becoming a fixture in horror films. He appeared in Purge: Anarchy, Get Out, and played the hero L in the controversial Netflix live-action take on Death Note.
Sorry to Bother You is saturated in blackness with Tessa Thompson as the love interest Detroit, Terry Crews as the financially beleaguered uncle, Jermaine Fowler and Omari Hardwick and as supporting cast members, and Danny Glover in a near-cameo appearance as Langston, the guy who teaches Cash to use his “white voice,” and Forest Whittaker as a human/horse hybrid called an equisapien. Directed and written by Boots Riley. Asian American actor Steven Yeun plays Squeeze, the overly woke union organizer who makes a play for Cash’s performance artist girlfriend Detroit after Cash begins to sell out.
The film handles issues regarding capitalism, usury, and the internal struggle many Americans face when deciding whether or not to maintain personal integrity or sell out to protect and feed one’s family with humor, grace, and a dark edginess reminiscent of the original Robocop, Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl and other black comedies in capitalist future dystopias.
I wouldn’t categorize it as horror if it wasn’t for the equisapiens. About halfway into the film, Cash’s descent into the dark wells of corruption takes a turn for the terrifying. It starts out with the selling out, of course. The telemarketer’s uncle is in debt and considering selling himself into a lifetime work contract that is essentially slavery to get out of it. Cash, a telemarketer, discovers he has an opportunity to save his uncle. All he has to do is join forces with WorryFree and become fine with selling other people into slavery. To complicate matters, his girlfriend has joined forces with Squeeze in protesting the poor wages at the telemarketing company they work at and boycotting WorryFree as their indentured servitude contacts are slave labor. Will he uphold the beliefs Detroit and he seemingly hold dear, or protect his family?
All of these questions are still being answered when things take a turn for the Weird Fiction neck of the woods. While questioning his own morality, Cash attends a party hosted by the CEO of WorryFree and uncovers a terrible secret: equisapiens! They are genetically engineered horse people WorryFree intends to use to get around labor laws that restrict their complete and other disregarding human rights for contract employees. Only, there is some suggestion that these equisapiens might actually be contract employees! Now, we’re stepping into the Twilight Zone, or maybe an Outer Limits episode where Forrest Whittaker is an equisapien instead of a voice announcer.
The movie has a slower pacing like most Sundance Film Festival circuit indie art films do. It had a very short run at the major theaters before bouncing to Hulu. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and I strongly recommend checking it out.