‘Lapsis’ and the rise of gig-economy science fiction


Ray Tincelli, a A good-humored, pot-bellied, middle-aged guy with a ’70s gangster vibe and money troubles, is looking for a new gig. His day job as a courier for a fragmented lost baggage company doesn’t cut him off. Played with the dog-hanged charm by Dean Imperial – he looks like Jeremy Piven going out on top – Tincelli is a blunt dude from Queens who could be imported from any number of high-profile cable dramas. For these reasons and more, it is the shifted magnetic center of lapsed, the new funny and surprisingly human sci-fi indie from first-time director Noah Hutton.

The dirty world Ray lives in looks like ours, but the details are slightly skewed. Ray’s younger half-brother Jamie (Babe Howard), a once-hearty hiker, is now sidelined with a mysterious chronic fatigue syndrome called Omnia. This syndrome is widespread enough that there is a whole fraudulent cottage industry surrounding its treatment, and Ray hopes to get his brother to a treatment center. After his mail job is kaput, he seeks advice from a slippery neighborhood character named Felix (James McDaniel), who connects Ray with a “wiring locket” as long as Ray promises to share a chunk of his profits. A twist on a taxi medallion, the Wiring Medallion is a black market ticket to the world of “wiring,” a bustling new line of contract work where “wirers” spend their days stringing yards to yards of cable fiber optics through wooded areas to be attached to large metal boxes immersed in forests. Everything is at the service of quantum computing, a new information superstructure that has invaded the world. According to Felix, they are paid generously for their problems. And so Ray comes out, into the woods, huffing and making his way to the cryptic boxes and potential financial freedom.

lapsed, who is currently available on VOD, is a film in the tradition of lo-fi sci-fi, an independent, dialogue-rich sci-fi genre without a big budget show. Thought Robot and Frank, Primer, or Being John Malkovich. Or think Riley Bootsof sorry to disturb you, another satire on the concert economy that takes place in a slightly alternate and slightly futuristic reality. Both are political parables, using gender to provoke the senseless excesses of capitalism. But at the same time sorry to disturb you is crazy about balls against the wall, lapsed is a smoother outing, revealing its history through long hikes in the woods.

The mechanics of the wiring hardly make sense, but the film doesn’t concern itself with explaining the logic of its quantum computing empire. The setup is as obscure to the average person as bitcoin mining because the details don’t matter. What matters is that this is the latest iteration of hard work in a global economy dependent on low-paid contractors with no human fuel benefits. In his first week on the job, Ray learns nothing about what hooking up wires in boxes can actually accomplish; what he learns is that the lower class of wiring is rightly and mightily pissed off – and that the wiring medallion he once used belonged to a notorious former wiremaker known as “Lapsis Beeftech” .

He learns even more once he befriends Anna (Madeline Wise), a seasoned cable worker who tries to organize her co-workers. The wiring company uses tiny canine robots as stimulators for its human workers; if a robot passes them on the track, it can steal their route and take their money. They are the bane of cable fitters, who plan to derail small machines, and are the brainchild of the original Lapsis Beeftech. Anna helps Ray trap one of the pacers, and they become confidants. And despite his best efforts to keep his head down and keep winning, Ray is quickly embroiled in a larger plot to find the original Lapsis and spark a workers’ revolt.

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