Lapsis tells the story of Ray Tincelli (Dean Imperial), a lowly baggage handler in Queens who is down on his luck financially; struggling to support himself and his ailing brother Jamie (Babe Howard), who is suffering from a strange fatiguing illness called omnia, which is connected to the death of his mother who died from the same illness. Seeing how his brother is faring, Ray takes it upon himself to make ends meet and send Jamie to a health clinic for treatment by taking up a business opportunity provided by his colleague Felix (James McDaniel).
The job is simple: walk a certain distance from point A to point B while unspooling strands of cable. With a task like that and the unbelievable amount of earnings that can be accumulated, it sounds like a fast path to success. But as the credo goes, be careful what you wish for.
The synopsis may be brief but it is decidedly so for a reason. A film like this is best ventured in without any prior knowledge beyond the set-up. Without revealing too much away, Lapsis is one of the best films of 2021; a film that shows remarkable ingenuity and invention within stark resources and budget restrictions that one wishes people would make more often.
The main reason why the film succeeds with flying colours is the remarkable world-building. The low budget (which never impedes the look of the film, which is vividly shot by DOP Mike Gomes) inspires creativity behind writer/director Noah Hutton’s direction. The film has no need for in-your-face bells and whistles and scenes of action in order to keep the audience engaged; all it needs are interesting ideas and a human element to provide a solid backbone behind them.
From the barbed, satirical look into workplace politics (man vs. machine veering toward work exploitation), basic human rights (healthcare industries keeping people questionably sick in order to achieve profit) and the arch portrayal of the American dream where people are literally dying to make a living, Hutton has created an enriching world that is engagingly topical and darkly funny.
As for the human element, the cast compliment it incredibly well. Dean Imperial is endearing as Ray as he lends an appealing average-joe quality to the character that is reminiscent of a young Bruce Willis — complete with a similar costuming (costume designer Sandy Siu must have had a lot of fun during the creative process) and lack of knowledge of technology like the character of John McClane in Die Hard. Madeline Wise is engaging as Anna, a fellow colleague who has worked in the cable business for 5 years; showing great charisma behind her laidback attitude with understated cynicism.
As for its flaws, the film does falter slightly in its balance of plausibility and genre expectation; especially with its abrupt ending. It may lack a climactic note but it does provide a fittingly thought-provoking coda in regards to its double-edged approach in how different social classes are both benefiting and suffering from big corporations.
What can make genre cinema great is that behind all the well-worn tropes and audience expectations is a bounty of ideas just waiting to be explored and subverted to their full potential; and Lapsis is a prime example of fantastic sci-fi cinema. Highly recommended.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Lapsis is showing in cinemas now, courtesy of Maslow Entertainment.