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'The Disruptors' Shows the Potential of Low-Budget Cinema, by Ethan K. Poole

This article will spoil the movie The Disruptors, which I truly can’t recommend enough. 

While scrolling through Instagram, I saw a trailer for a newly released movie that a few comedians I follow had starred in. It was called The Disruptors, and it was available to buy or rent on AppleTV. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I liked the main cast’s previous work and am always glad to support an independent film, so I decided to give it a shot. Within the 48-hour rental period, I watched the movie three times.

I loved it.

It blended drama and comedy brilliantly, all surrounding a satire of tech culture. It follows two best friends, Will (Grant O’Brien) and Glenn (Ally Beardsley), who are both struggling to find work. Together, they make ends meet by scamming random people that Will picks up as a rideshare driver. However, once that no longer cuts it, they decide to move up to something bigger: they’re going to scam the owner of the rideshare service Will works for, tech billionaire Bruce Marcus (Marc Evan Jackson). By creating a fake start-up (and by stroking Marcus’ ego) they believe they can get millions of dollars in investment money.

With Will serving as the charismatic salesman and Glenn as the hacker who can fake their new “invention” of a patch that allows you to control electronics with your mind, the two friends get remarkably close to securing over twenty million dollars from Marcus, with only a few hiccups along the way.

One of those hiccups was Glenn getting caught hiding in Marcus’ mansion and then getting arrested. After Glenn’s arrest, Will leaves them in jail and tries to finish the scam alone. Predictably, this plan goes poorly, and the whole scheme crashes and burns from that point onward. Eventually, Glenn lets the feeling of betrayal sink in, prompting them to start working for Marcus to make Will’s life as miserable as possible.

The fracturing relationship between Glenn and Will isn’t the only emotional throughline of the movie. We learn that Glenn is a shut-in, completely terrified of the outside world after an all-too-public traumatic experience completely terrified them. We discover early on that Will has lied to his mother about his job (he told her he works a design job at Facebook). When Marcus learns Will has been trying to scam him, he reveals all his lies to Will’s mother. The two break down and have an incredibly emotional argument, which reaches its breaking point when Will

offers the only explanation he can for why he lied to her for all these years, “I wanted you to be proud of me.”

This confession highlights the core of Will’s character: he feels he’s failing to live up to his potential. He is charismatic and instantly likable, but he’s also stalling in his life and never is allowed the opportunity to make any headway on his dreams. The film portrays this dichotomy incredibly well. You might even think the screenwriter wrote Will’s character with the actor’s strengths in mind.

In fact, it was. Adam Frucci, the movie’s writer and director, and Grant O’Brien (alongside Ally Beardsley and many of the film’s side characters) had previously been long-time collaborators working with the comedy website CollegeHumor (now called Dropout). 

You can certainly tell that many of the actors have experience working with each other; their chemistry feels natural and believable as they bounce off each other with practiced ease. This chemistry, facilitated by a director who understands them and their strengths, is what really brought this film together in the end.

The movie feels like a collaboration between friends in the best way possible. Tight-knit productions like this are almost impossible for studios to replicate on a large scale; too much corporate involvement, but a crowd-funded project like this is a special opportunity. One The Disruptors does not waste, consistently bringing out its best to tell the story it wants to tell.

That story also benefits from the nature of its production. While many movies feature satire and criticism of the billionaire class as an independent production with limited studio involvement, it feels particularly biting here.

Bruce Marcus’s character is a raging narcissist who is incapable of connecting with those around him and whose success only comes from his massive amounts of money and influence. This character’s writing is already strong from the start, but the reveal at the end really brings it home: The audience learns of his plans to create a surveillance state where he can constantly spy on civilians and use them as puppets in his own interests.

Modern satires of billionaires often cast them as either idiots or masterminds, but Marcus - an idiot with an evil plan - feels much more believable than the expected binary. And because his selfish actions are so grounded, it’s incredibly gratifying to see him get what he deserves in the end.

Marcus is a glimpse into what Will could be: successful at the cost of everything else. Thankfully, he rejects that fate. He learns what it’s like to lose the people you care about, and instead of falling apart, he resolves to become a better person. Will manages to reconnect with Glenn and properly apologizes for not looking out for them. He also resolves to repair his relationship with his mother, something we see in the end credits that he succeeds at.

The movie shows that emotional vulnerability and real human connection is worth more than any amount of money. That is an especially fitting take coming from a low-budget movie that really shines through to the genuine relationships between much of the cast and crew.

The Disruptors is a movie worth experiencing and seeing how every part comes together and elevates it beyond the sum of its parts.

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