Watching a trash-talking, Mohawk-sporting Mad Max reject spout obscenities while competing against a cut-rate Zoolander clone in a colorful dancing videogame that’s a teenage rite of passage, it began to feel as if irony -- the cornerstone of any healthy Gen-Y diet -- had finally jumped the shark. Great social commentators make satire look easy, but crafting a successful parody is no simple task because at that critical point where reality becomes distorted, the satirist risks becoming precisely what it is they seek to mock. The FP plays like a sports drama that would have moved the future dolts in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy to tears, likely winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay in the process. Even so, it’s the kind of film that seems destined to become a carefully crafted cult hit on the merit of its pedigree (it’s one of the first features to be produced by Drafthouse Films, the latest arbiter of cinema cool), and the sad fact that folks who attend rowdy midnight screenings won’t admit that it’s a failure for fear of being branded terminally uncool.
The story is simple: in the wake of seeing his brother BTRO (Brandon Barrera) inexplicably killed during a Beat Beat Revolution bout against the villainous L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy in an amusingly unhinged performance), patch-eyed JTRO (Jason Trost) turns his back on his friends, and the game he was born to play. At a later point, JTRO’s old community has been ravaged by the effects of L Dubba E’s tyrannical rule. By taking control of the local liquor distribution, the dancing dictator now possesses the power over the local boozehounds, including the abusive father of Stacey (Caitlyn Folley), JTRO’s former love interest. In order to end L Dubba E’s reign and put the power back into the hands of the people, Beat Beat Revolution announcer KC/DC (Art Hsu) tracks down JTRO and convinces him to come back and compete. And with the mysterious BLT (Nick Principe) as his trainer, JTRO strives to succeed, win Stacey back from L Dubba E, and drive his brother’s killer out of the community for good.
In many cases, when a critic pens a negative review of a film catering to a very specific audience -- in this case the easily forgiving midnight-movie crowd -- supporters are quick to fire back with the claim that the dissenting reviewer simply didn’t “get it.” It’s a knee-jerk response intended to separate the knowing few from the stodgy scholar, and though occasionally accurate it’s largely a hollow retort. Given The FP’s shallow sense of satire, to claim that anyone doesn’t “get” the film would be as much an insult to the accused as it would be to the accuser. Frankly, there’s just not much here to get, because by the time the opening credits roll virtually every joke has been exhausted. Of course if you’re the type who finds endless humor in a bunch of ridiculously dressed white kids calling each other “nigga” for 80 minutes then more power to you -- The FP will no doubt have you rolling on the floor. For virtually everyone else, the herculean strain to achieve cult notoriety is painfully evident in every frame of the film. Meanwhile, the characters who aren’t simple cartoons are simply pathetic (like Stacey, who repeatedly runs back into the arms of the repugnant L Dubba E, or JTRO, who continually welcomes her back with open arms after hearing her say things like “He’s not worth it.” when L Dubba E starts spouting off threats).
To say that The FP has no redeeming qualities, however, would be a bit misleading. Despite the shortcomings of their debut feature, the Trost brothers are far from lazy when it comes to creating a convincing fictional universe, and while Brandon Trost’s sharp and colorful cinematography gives the film a unique atmosphere, the dialogue -- a largely mind-numbing mix of uninspired profanity and hip-hop slang -- does occasionally show flashes of demented genius, as in the scene where Stacey observes “Logs is chill.” after learning that JTRO has been away working in the woods. Likewise, a running gag about oral sex gets a hearty laugh when the Trost brothers take it to the logical conclusion in the final scene -- once again proving the writers’ commitment to following through on a joke. If only the majority of the jokes in The FP were actually worth following through on, it may have been a satirical classic, rather than just another amusing short film ruined by the drive to make it into a feature.
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