Sleep Dealer: Welcome to El Matrix

Science fiction easily lends itself to allegory, but while the dystopian near-future of co-writer/director Alex Rivera's feature debut focuses, admirably, on how globalization affects the third world, his ideas are as subtle as a light saber to the face. From a tiny Oaxacan village whose water supply is owned by a greedy multinational corp, amateur hacker Memo (Luis Fernando Peña) leaves his peasant family to make a better living in Tijuana, now a thriving metropolis. How? Well, since the U.S. has sealed itself off entirely from Mexico, south-of-the-border sweatshop workers with surgically implanted nodes jack into El Matrix and remotely control robots in America. Side plot: Unbeknownst to Memo, his new hottie journo friend (Leonor Varela) is pre-selling her downloadable memories to content buyers online, which, if you remove the eXistenZ bio-port nonsense, may be the single most prescient concept herein. Considering a Spanish-language film of this kind would never get a studio budget, its resourceful special effects actually aid the narrative. But from the imperialist villains and their humanitarian abuses to the laborers dying on their feet, what's so clever about tricking out this worn-out tale of woe into a genre flick?

 
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