Sunday, October 08, 2023

The Mill, on Hulu

Slave labor is common place in today’s world. There is a good chance the smartphone in your pocket or the sports clothes on your back were made by Uyghurs detained in Xinjiang or trafficking victims in South and Southeast Asia. There is no need to treat it as a dystopian allegory, because it is a disgraceful reality. However, in this film, it is used as a symbol of mind-numbing office drudgery. Joe Stevens must work till he drops and then work some more in Sean King O’Grady’s The Mill, which premieres tomorrow on Hulu.

For years, Stevens has toiled away as a mid-level middle manager in the corporate Behemoth known as Mallard (a horizontally integrated conglomerate, in a fashion you would have more likely seen in the 1970s). Since his wife is expecting, Stevens wants to double-down on his career, so he is shocked to wake up in this surreal roofless prison cell. According to the computerized interface, this is a facility for Mallard employees who have potential, but are not fully pulling their weight.

Every day, Stevens must make his quota pushing an ancient stone mill, sort of like Conan the Barbarian did when he was a child slave. Of course, if you surpass your quota, Mallard quickly raises it, but failure to meet the quota results in punishment. There are additional “rules” the Mallard inmates must also follow, but the only person who tells him anything is his unseen neighbor, who is decidedly “unreliable.”

The Mill will make you feel like you are imprisoned in a Mallard black site, just like Stevens. It just seems to go on and on. None of it is even scary, even though it is being promoted as part of Hulu’s “Huluween.” There is just a steady vibe of low-grade anxiety and foreboding.

Lil Rel Howey (who also produced) holds up well as Stevens, especially considering he is on-screen for almost every second. Genre favorite Pat Healy also makes the most of his relatively short time, appearing late in the film as a “surprise” (but not necessarily surprising) character.

However, Jeffrey David Thomas’s relentlessly on-the-nose and in-your-face screenplay just keeps grinding the same grist, like it is working away on a Mallard quota. It is also totally gutless, trying to score vague points against corporate culture, but ignoring the very real horrors of slave labor.

Like Stevens,
The Mills just keeps grinding on, fruitlessly. It is downbeat, heavy-handed, and willfully ignorant of current reality. What a shame and what a waste. Not recommended, The Mill starts streaming tomorrow (8/9) on Hulu.