LAPSIS (2020) Review, Directed by Noah Hutton, Nightstream 2020

Lapsis (2020)

Overview: Struggling to support himself and his ailing younger brother, delivery man Ray (Dean Imperial) takes a strange job in a strange new realm of the gig economy.

New York, an alternate present: the quantum computing revolution has begun and investors are lining their pockets in the quantum trading market. Building the network, though, requires miles of infrastructure to be laid between huge magnetic cubes by “cablers” – unprotected gig workers who compete against robots to pull wires over rough terrain.

Queens delivery man Ray Tincelli (Dean Imperial) is skeptical of new technology, and the buy-in to start cabling is steep, but he struggles to support himself and his ailing younger brother, who suffers from a mysterious illness. So when Ray scores a shady permit, he believes their fortunes may have finally changed. What he doesn’t expect is to be pulled into a conspiracy involving hostile cablers, corporate greed, and the mysterious ‘Lapsis’ who may have previously owned his medallion. Called “a smart class-conscious sci-fi parable” by The Hollywood Reporter, Lapsis (affiliate link) is a darkly comic and timely look at the gig economy and the failed utopian promises of big tech.

Director: Noah Hutton
Writer: Noah Hutton
Starring: Dean Imperial, Madeline Wise, Dora Madison, Frank Wood

Gavin’s Lapsis Movie Review

Presented as “science fiction,” the world of LAPSIS (affiliate link)is barely different from the real world of 2020 (minus the pandemic) and offers a scathing critique of the gig economy and the growing number of independent contractors. Now, this is something I can relate to. I formerly worked “with” Amazon and was burned by the way they treat “third party” affiliates. For the past decade, I have worked as an author. This, too, is essentially independent contracting – the publisher pays royalties, but you are left holding the bag when it comes to taxes and health care. This is a world I know.

Now, interestingly, the cable business of the film requires a “medallion,” something akin to how taxi companies in the big cities work. This is an interesting choice, because it could open so many possibilities… the competition (leading to inflation), the possibility of corruption, and the way that today Lyft and Uber are bucking the old ways of doing things. These issues are not really addressed in any depth.

The satire on its own could carry this film, but there are different things going on that add to the zaniness. Ray’s medallion had a questionable previous owner, leading to a major subplot of finding out who it was and what happened to them. There is also the rise of the machines replacing humans, another parallel with the growing “threat” of automation. I say threat in quotes because while it could lead to the elimination of jobs, the outcome may be something greater. Oddly, in the film, the robots and humans exist side by side – not one replacing the other, but in direct competition.

Still not enough? There’s even jabs at the American health care system, as Ray’s brother suffers from “omnia,” an illness not well-defined that may or may not exist. Regardless of its truthiness, Ray cannot afford to care for his brother, leading to his entry in this dehumanizing world in the first place. Much can be said here. Americans, so I’m told, tend to stay in a job longer than they want to because they can’t risk losing health insurance. Most other industrialized countries do not tie health care to employment, leading to greater mobility and job satisfaction. Do companies, especially “gig” businesses, thrive in part because the contractors are desperate? Absolutely.

Perhaps part of the film’s brilliance is that none of this is hit-you-over-the-head blunt. There is a character who is decidedly anti-capitalist who gives voice to some concerns, but it doesn’t take you out of the film. It makes sense in the context provided. LAPSIS (affiliate link) is clever and deserves to be seen.

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