Review by: Christopher Haskell
November 26, 2018

“If you get shown a problem but have no idea how to control it then you just decide to get used to the problem.”

Squeeze (Steven Yeun), “Sorry To Bother You”

Boots Riley breaks through the clutter with his directorial debut. Take a step back and look at the absurd era we live in, where our leaders are tweeting daily (looking at you President T…) and negativity rules the day, and then realize that getting any strong messages across to anyone is nearly impossible. By being uniquely outlandish and creating a positive groundswell, Boots Riley not only creates an entertaining first feature in “Sorry To Bother You,” but he creates a pretty useful soapbox in which to project his very distinct voice.

Much like his telemarketing characters using their “white” voices to bait and hook customers, Riley does his version of this by showing the broad-strokes of the film in the initial marketing. Come for the fresh names like Lakeith Stanfield (“Get Out”) and Tessa Thompson (“Dear White People” & “Thor: Ragnarok”), get hooked by the out-of-the-box underdog comedy, and get switched by an eventual turn that goes beyond anything you could ever imagine, straight from the mind of a director who started out first as an activist. What the film eventually becomes is right up there with the revelations presented in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” where suddenly the film evolves into being about way more than just a young man meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. And boy, does this debut develop into way more than just a story about worker’s unions and rising through the ranks of the telemarketing game.

Casting in this film is crucial. When a film’s plot dives over the edge into unconventional territory, it becomes part of an actor’s job to reel the ideas back into something palatable. Besides the leads mentioned above in Stanfield and Thompson, who carry a large part of the film on their own, Armie Hammer grounds his role perfectly, keeping a leash on what easily could have been an overblown and completely eccentric villain. Danny Glover, who is still “too old for this shit,” and Steven Yeun are also lovely additions to the ensemble. With this extraordinary cast and some exceptional writing, Boots Riley produces not only one of the most original comedies of the year, but one of the best directorial debuts in recent memory. And, in the process, he creates a Trojan horse (pun intended) for his remarkable views to sneak into the conversations of people that otherwise may have never given him the time of day.

July 6, 2018

Boots Riley

Boots Riley

AnnaPurna Pictures

$3.2 million

(for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use)


111 minutes


Boots Riley
Nina Yang Bongiovi
Jonathan Duffy
Charles D. King
George Rush
Forest Whitaker
Kelly Williams

Boots Riley


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