“Lapsis” is set in an alternate present, but it doesn’t feel that way. A low-budget dig at corporate rapaciousness and the gig economy, this gently comic satire feels entirely in step with the world outside our front doors.
Keeping the tone light and the speechifying to a minimum, the writer and director, Noah Hutton, introduces us to Ray (Dean Imperial), a good-humored airline employee. Ray’s modest salary won’t pay for the expensive clinic that could cure his brother’s chronic-fatigue-related illness, so he reluctantly takes a job with a mysterious new cable company. Soon, though, he learns that the necessary permit he obtained from a shady friend (James McDaniel) — and will pay for with a chunk of his earnings — might have had a previous, problematic owner.
Carefully avoiding both didacticism and bitterness, “Lapsis” places us alongside Ray and his fellow workers as they traipse through the woods, dragging cable behind them. Huge, ominous magnetic cubes wait to be connected, and the so-called cablers must outperform robots for the most lucrative routes. The constant motion and pervasive distrust are exhausting, but not until a friendly long-timer (Madeline Wise) enlightens Ray on his permit’s provenance and its connection to their enslavement does he decide to fight back.
Cloaking outrage in humor, Hutton fashions a world of scams, pulling financial markets and the wellness industry, middle men and monopolies into a tumble-dryer of ideas. The narrative eventually loses steam, but the movie’s politics remain as low-key as its acting and as basic as its special effects. “Lapsis” isn’t a polemic, it’s a caricature, and all the more likable for having its claws sheathed in velvet.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. In virtual cinemas and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.