New Guy (2003) Movie Review

Bilge Ebiri's New Guy has a double misfortune: First is a setup that puts it in the headlights of one of the biggest cult films of all time, Office Space. Second is a title that's the same as a DJ Qualls movie.

Don't be discouraged, though: Ebiri ultimately turns these concerns to his advantage, giving us one of the most assured indie debuts in years.

New Guy follows one day in the life of Gregg (Kelly Miller), in his first day on the job at a faceless cubicle farm where the corporate motto is "sacrifice equals success." He experiences the usual humiliations, but it all his a perverse twist: For starters, his cube is covered in Post-It Notes left by the former tenant. Doors won't open without a key card -- which no one will give him. A remote controlled car meanders through the halls, its operator unseen. Faxes refuse to go through, then the phones go out. And people speak in hushed tones about Gregg's predecessor -- who might have gone insane and might have killed an intern.

Before we know it, New Guy takes a Lynchian turn as Gregg gets trapped in the office after hours. Not even pulling the fire alarm gets him out. And he might not be alone....

New Guy is equal parts satire and haunted house movie, a combination that works well (and which I don't think I've ever seen) in the setting of an office building. Ebiri keeps us guessing: Is it all a joke? A strange initiation ritual? Or has Gregg gotten himself into something he shouldn't have?

And while the thriller side of New Guy works, the comedy side works even better. I kid you not, there's a moment right in the middle of the film, when Gregg is pulling at his last straw, where he simply snaps. His outcry had my wife and I laughing our asses off harder than I have since Jim Carrey turned Steven Carell into his gibbering puppet in Bruce Almighty.

Combining the elements of comedy and thriller isn't easy, especially for a first-timer. But Ebiri (full disclosure: we are acquainted and have worked together in the past) pulls it off. The film, shot on digital video, has the usual problems associated with that medium, but the sound and lighting are far better than most DV films, and Ebiri obtained amazing access to the building he shot in, filling it with extras and even sending Gregg into the air conditioning ducts for a spell.

This ain't no lazy home movie -- and it's even garnered a small theatrical release in New York City, where it was shot. If you're local, I insist that you go see it.

Comments

New Guy (2003) Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2003

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