Ken Loach nukes the system milking those caught between the bytes of the gig economy. Wound around his scanner as surely as Charlie Chaplin was between his “Modern Times” gears, Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen) cannot catch a break. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If there are angles to being your own boss, Ricky has missed every one of them.
Every new technology has its growing pains. Some participants pick up on the zeitgeist better than others, getting newfound breaks that outweigh the land mines. Ricky exhibits the most profound case of digital anti-charisma since Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed NBC. His wife (Debbie Honeywood) fares little better, apparently caring more for her at-home nursing clients than the system allows. The teenage son is in the midst of an extended tantrum and his little sister is traumatized into uncontrollable bed-wetting.
There is no question that noise needs to be made about those left behind by on-line shopping, not to mention the proliferation of self-employment scams that spring up every day. Perhaps today’s gig economy is the new mail order real estate scam, big returns promised to the wannabe tycoon. If it is too good to be true, it has always been to good to be true. As much as we wish this would change, it will not change, except for the sucker that is born every minute. Condemning everything from tough bosses to cell phones to car loans is not going to make a difference.
Putting the off-center political sniping aside, this is a breakout performance by lead Chris Hitchens. He vibrates off the screen with Michael Keaton “Birdman” level punch-drunk ambition, epileptic angst, and suicidal despair. He is mad as hell but cannot find the words to say he is not going to take it anymore. He takes it long after everybody else has seen the light.
Solid supporting performances by Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor as wife and kids put Hitchens over the top, not to mention the exceptional direction by Ken Loach. Unfortunately, if screenwriter Paul Laverty thought he was going to pull off another “I, Daniel Blake” with this attempted crucifixion, he has miscalculated. He is going to have to reunite with director Loach on a whole different level if they are going to keep that ball rolling. A plot that might play to white collar salaried employees with zero gig experience is too much of a shotgun blast to reach those in the know.
Kudos to Ross Brewster as super-human unfeeling boss Maloney. His limitless lack of understanding is matched only by the bottomless irrationality of the overall plot. Everyone does something right some of the time even if by accident. Oscar nod to the electronic scanner/tracer for best set device. The most evil digital interface since the law enforcement ankle bracelet; the circuitry of R2D2 with the mindset of Freddy Kruger. Miss this one and watch “Daniel Blake” instead.
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