THE HUMANITY BUREAU Review: Nic Cage, Blade Runner (Sort Of)
Let's get this out of the way up front: The Humanity Bureau is another bad DTV affair starring Nicolas Cage. From the moment we pick up in an El Camino Cage is driving through the middle of the heavily green screened Nevada desert, it's fairly clear what audience this movie is aimed at: the late night SyFy crowd, who are probably high AF and can't find anything better to watch as they flip through whatever cable/streaming service they're currently navigating. Cage's Noah Kross is a futuristic hunter for the titular government agency, who operates like Rick Deckard crossed with an IRS auditor. His job: to check out possible unproductive members of society, and ensure that they're pulling their weight. If not, they're shipped off to camps, until they learn to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.
It's a metaphor, see? Only where Ridley Scott's eternal sci-fi masterpiece was using its meager story to explore the meaning of existence for both humans and artificial intelligence, screenwriter Dave Shultz and director Rob King are spinning a lunkheaded Trump era allegory regarding class and fascism (there's even a photo of the sitting President tossed in during the first act, in case you don't fully "get it"). Cage is the unquestioning establishment drone, shooting deadbeat old timers in cheap motels before interrogating single mother Rachel Weller (Sarah Lind) and her son Lucas (Jakob Davies) on the abandoned ranch they occupy, far from the walled-in cities that now comprise society. Kross knows that they're hiding their somewhat destitute nature, yet can't help but be charmed by their ability to scrape by with little more than love and shoe leather.
Naturally, Kross wants to help the woman and violates his orders to deport Rachel and her son off to their state mandated confinement. In turn, that involves fleeing to Canada (which, even in the future, is the best alternative to America), while one of his colleagues - the nasty, lethal company man Adam Westinghouse (Hugh Dillon) - is hot on their tale, harboring a professional grudge against Noah that makes his pursuit unprofessionally personal. All the while, Kross daydreams about when he was a boy and his dad took him fishing - clean water now having been almost completely eradicated due to global conflicts and pollution - and no doubt wants to take Lucas on a trip to the lake whenever they reach a safe Canuck port.
There's a dopey charm to The Humanity Bureau that keeps it constantly watchable, even as the analytical part of your brain is picking apart the $12 Canadian production design and Cage's atypically sleepy performance. Once Kross and his adopted clan hit the road, King's film stops imitating Blade Runner, and starts riffing on every post apocalyptic road movie you've ever seen, mixing in kindly raiders while Cage spits ridiculous lines of dialogue such as "I've seen kids drink their own piss to stay alive." Unfortunately, The Humanity Bureau never showcases a full-tilt Cage Rage moment, even though a seemingly friendly game of "I Spy" definitely ends with the legendary actor suddenly threatening to break the kid's arm.
"Because it's easier to build fear than build a wall." That's how Rachel explains the government's decision to purposefully misinform citizens so that they don't trespass into zones where the state doesn't want them to travel. When combined with concentration camp imagery, the destruction of the environment due to right wing policies, and the fascist foot soldiers who enforce them, it becomes pretty clear what machines The Humanity Bureau is raging against. So, while it's rather cheaply made, wholly derivative, and features a non-performance from Cage, King's film is still pretty admirable in its intent. It's not often you see a piece of Redbox ready pulp actively attempting to double as a protest film. There's value in that, even if its packaged as dumbass schlock.
The Humanity Bureau is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.