Empathy, Inc. (2018) – Film Review
Director: Yedidya Gorsetman
Cast: Zack Robdis, Kathy Searle, Eric Berryman
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
The age-old sci-fi staple of transplanting minds into other bodies has helped turn films like Avatar into box office gold over the years. It’s not always a recipe for success, as Brainstorm and Strange Days proved, but it’s a great hook for any thriller, and 2018 offering Empathy, Inc is no exception.
It opens with a theatrical monologue from the leading protagonist, a businessman whose lucrative deal turns sour. Up to his neck in debt, he has to live with his in-laws while trying to think of a way to get out of the mess so he and his attractive partner can gain some independence.
After going for a drink, he meets an old associate who may hold the solution to his problems, a start-up company involving extreme virtual reality. Our hero is given a chance to try out the procedure, and is told one of the rules involves not looking in the mirror while inside this VR experience.
The company needs a million dollars, so after the impoverished hero sweet talks his father-in-law into investing his nest egg, the company is given a chance to grow. Of course not everything goes to plan, and when bombshells are dropped, the protagonist has to right some wrongs.
Though there are many holes in the execution (taking a photo of a computer screen to capture vital info – yet leaving the flash on; not Googling a shady character before investing), this is a neat little indie thriller in the Black Mirror mode.
“Plenty of twists”
None of the cast carry any obvious baggage, so there’s little chance of snapping back to reality while you try and remember where you saw them last, and the whole thing ticks over like a Swiss watch.
It’s in the third act that things get really interesting as a shady programmer (who looks like a young Stanley Kubrick) plays a key part, and the film takes plenty of twists and turns.
I can see a big studio investing millions of dollars on a revamp (preferably with Ryan Reynolds, Rashida Jones and Paul Giamatti), though if they do I’m guessing they’ll tweak that ending.
Empathy, Inc kept me hooked throughout, and it’s worth rewatching the first minute or so once you’ve finished for that opening scene to make sense. I’ll be very interested to see what the cast and crew do next.
• Original LPCM Stereo 2.0 Audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary with director Yedidya Gorsetman and writer Mark Leidner
• Behind the scenes 360 (degrees)
• Deleted Scenes
• International Trailer
• UK Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Barnes – Brutal Posters
Empathy Inc. is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £19.99