Dobbitt is called away from his loving wife for duty at “the Corporation,” a toxic factory that operates around the clock producing its mysterious units. Always willing to please, he arrives at his new quarters and meets his bunkmate, Hanrahan, a sharp and bitter man who incisively questions Dobbitt’s motives. The two report to Merkin, the petty and paranoid, back-stabbing plant manager, who ruthlessly pits his employees against one other. These type-B males swim in a comical stew of their own toxic juices as they jockey for power within the company.
In an avant-garde commentary on corporate detachment and office politics, grown men act immeasurably childishly when enslaved to a factory. Luckily, Dobbitt (Robert Knott) and Hanrahan (Xander Berkeley) are supervisors, so they need only pace and stare at the fatigued toilers in this futuristic but still slightly medieval workplace. Then, when bunking together, the two middle managers bicker like brats, wasting their own time – and the audience’s – on unresolvable disputes.
“There’ll be no more gutter talk about my wife,” Dobbitt says, pining for home while his roommate manipulates his feelings. “Even when she’s not here, she makes me feel like I’m not alone.”
“She’s made many men feel like they’re not alone,” Hanrahan replies.
It goes on like this endlessly, as power shifts between these two agitated misfits and then gets more complicated by the meddling of their toupee-topped boss, Merkin (Tom Bower). The power struggle among the three men takes various wordy, wearisome turns, in a script that tries and fails to have fun with semantics. Eventually the men dance with one another, verbally and literally, in what becomes a tediously bizarre love triangle.
The film, directed by Robert M. Young, was based on Richard Dresser’s Off Broadway play of the same name, and it tries to ease the claustrophobia of its imagined era, which production notes describe as “post-industrial, pre-apocalyptic.”
Green-screen technology, in which computer-generated imagery is projected on studio walls, is employed to add to the surreal surroundings. But the film’s many voids are not meaningfully filled by all the monsters and assembly-line workers that crop up. None of the three principal actors are unskilled, and they somehow don’t lose on-screen energy, even as it’s sapped from the audience. Ultimately, this film’s many errors can be blamed on man and machine alike.
Opens today in Manhattan.
Directed by Robert M. Young; written by Richard Dresser, based on his play; director of photography, Michael Barrow; edited by Roger Cohen; music by a.i. (Milen Kirov, Nick Young and Zack Young); production designer, Hilary Rosenfeld; produced by Joel Ehrlich; released by New Deal Pictures. At the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 139-143 East Houston Street, East Village. Running time: 94 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Xander Berkeley (Hanrahan), Tom Bower (Merkin) and Robert Knott (Dobbitt).
Featuring a mixture of live-action and animation, this quirky comedy comes from director Robert M. Young (Caught). Robert Knott and Xander Berkeley star as Dobbitt and Hanrahan, two working stiffs who have left their families and homes behind for jobs in a strange factory that produces ambiguous products. Against an animated backdrop, the two bunkmates are forced to work under a conniving supervisor who is intentionally manipulating the men. Also featuring Berkeley’s real-life spouse, Sarah Clarke, Human Error (formerly titled Below the Belt) screened as part of the Frontier program at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
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