Under the Radar

Director Boots Riley Would Like to Challenge Your Beliefs With 'Sorry to Bother You'

Lakeith Stanfield and Armie Hammer star in "Sorry to Bother You." (Fox)

"Sorry to Bother You" is the first movie from writer/director Boots Riley, an unapologetic provocateur known for his two-decade career as frontman for the hip-hop group The Coup. Set in Oakland sometime in the near future, the sci-fi movie imagines a dystopian world where workers trade freedom and independent thought for job security. 

Lakeith Stanfield ("Atlanta," "War Machine," "Straight Outta Compton") plays Cassius Green, a bright young man at loose ends until he finds his mojo working at a telemarketing center by adopting a "white voice" that's dubbed by David Cross ("Arrested Development," "Mr. Show"). Tessa Thompson ("Creed," "Thor: Ragnarok," "Westworld") plays his girlfriend Detroit, an aspiring performance artist who gets involved with the resistance.

Armie Hammer ("The Social Network," "Nocturnal Animals," "Free Fire") gives a brilliantly hilarious performance as Steve Life, an amoral Silicon Valley "visionary" with plans to transform the world. Cassius quickly climbs the telemarketing ladder and ends up selling weapons for Lift.

"Sorry to Bother You" is brutal satire, bending reality in ways that haters of MSNBC and Fox News couldn't begin to imagine. Boots Riley wants to make you laugh before pissing you off. His movie is smart, his ideas are organized and there's incredible attention to detail in everything from casting to music (mostly made by The Coup) to set design to cinematography. He's been waiting a long time to make a movie and Riley hasn't wasted those years. This is a wickedly well-planned piece of work.

If you identify with a "side" in American politics, "Sorry to Bother You" aims to get under your skin. Riley still wants to use his art to change the terms of debate in our national conversation and he's made a movie that aims to force viewers to question their beliefs.

There's a huge sci-fi reveal in the final act that makes it worth seeing the movie before you read too much about it.

There's an excellent documentary feature included on the home video release and a dynamite commentary by Boots Riley. Hip-hop needs this guy to keep making records but the movies might need him even more. I can't wait to see what he does next.

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