Nano: hard-boiled pulp fiction ho-hum plot with an unusual premise

Mike Manning, “Nano” (2017)

This short film has the look and feel of a proof-of-concept work itching to be made into a full-length feature film or a television series: it has a very Hollywood look and sheen and it is clearly plot-driven. The plot revolves around a hard-bitten detective living on his own who hires a hooker to come to his apartment for some rough sex: how much more pulp-fiction hard-bitten can that plot be? The difference between “Nano” and other conventional hardboiled detective stories is its underlying science fiction premise: in the near future, the human genome will be augmented with nano-technologies that will link all humans from the time they are born with various government databases and networks. In the short, a new database version of the Nano technology is released and this Nano 2.0 version will become mandatory for all humans to have in their DNA. Among other things, this new version will enable police departments in the US to mediate potential criminal violence by accessing protagonists’ DNA through the database and inducing sudden paralysis in them; this will not only prevent violent crime but also gives governments the ability to direct people’s actions. As a result, people have less personal control and autonomy in their lives.

While the hologram TV news program pits a young, presumably “liberal” female reporter in favour of Nano 2.0 against a middle-aged male commentator with “conservative” values arguing against the loss of personal freedom and free will, the detective and the hooker eye each other suspiciously and have a terse and tense conversation before they get down to business. Unbeknownst to the detective, the prostitute is actually part of a hacker activist group opposed to Nano 2.0 and the potential loss of human freedoms: before arriving at his apartment, she has knocked over the real hooker going there and robbed her of her DNA profile and incorporated it into her own through a portable nano-technological hook-up gadget with the result that the hacktivist’s hair turns blonde from the real prostitute’s phenotype expression.

Once in the detective’s apartment, the hacktivist plays out the prostitute’s role until such time as she paralyzes the fellow temporarily so she can hack into the Nano 2.0 database and download his genome into a card before he wakes up. The downloading isn’t fast enough, he wakes up, there’s a fight, she manages to get away – but not before he is able to access and download her genome from a government database and send that information to his superiors. Thus, while she escapes with her accomplice, the police are able to induce paralysis in her and the accomplice is forced to abandon her and take off with the detective’s information.

For me, the most interesting part of the film (apart from the premise which it depends on) is the TV news conversation that runs in the background in the detective’s apartment: the argument between the young female reporter and the middle-aged interviewee satirises the current US culture wars involving identity politics, and perceived political allegiances and their associated ideologies and belief systems. Those protesting increased government surveillance and invasion of human minds, bodies and even genetics for the purpose of control are made out not only to be narrow-minded and bigoted, but even (in an ironic and twisted way) authoritarian. The reporter also constantly interrupts the interviewee in an exchange that remarks bitingly on the state of news media, that they assume a role in which they represent and interpret for government and the elite agendas that government now represents – in short, the news media have become the propaganda and public relations arm of government – and everyone must genuflect before a virtual secular priesthood of the police state.

Aside from this development which is part of the film’s context, the plot is fairly ordinary with its emphasis on physical seduction and violence, and little in the way of decent dialogue. The acting is adequate enough to demonstrate that in the future, the most valuable possession is a person’s genetic identity. The film ends on an open note, by which time few viewers are likely to care much about the paralysed hacktivist or the unlikable detective out for revenge.

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