Mar 4, 2012

REVIEW: THE FP


For a filmmaker, attempting to manufacture a cult film is a fool's errand. To even try is just as disingenuous as those claims you see from film critics hailing a newly released movie as an "instant classic." No one filmmaker can knowingly create a cult film, and no one film critic can hail a movie as an instant classic. Time, only, will decide if one particular film is worthy of either title.

The FP just might have broken both of those rules in one dope move. 

Conceived and executed by The Trost Brothers (Jason and Brandon), The FP is destined to go down as the most unique film of 2012. I can honestly say I've never seen another film like it, and I absolutely love when I get to say that.

Jtro (Jason Troust) and his brother, Btro (Brandon Barrera), live in a not-too-distant future where underground games of Beat Beat Revolution (a recreated version of the popular arcade hit Dance Dance Revolution) are not only prevalent, but have become the way for gangs to claim dominance over a territory. Hordes of young people gather together in smoky, neon light-filled basement warehouses and watch as two challengers go head-to-head, pumping their legs and twisting their bodies to the roaring techno bouncing off the concrete walls; and when our characters speak, they do so using the most extreme street Ebonics not heard since the days of the NWA. Exclamations of "Oh snap!", "Whack!", and "YEah!! [sic]" flash on the screens during the dance challenge, either encouraging or dissing the dancers' moves.

If you're thinking this concept is ludicrous, that's because it is. And our filmmakers know it is. But that doesn't mean they aren't in on the joke. And wisely, they play this concept as straight as possible. When I tell you that the movie is flat-out hilarious, it's not because there are "jokes" throughout its running time...because there aren't...because the entire movie is the joke. Lines of dialogue like "I challenge you to a beat-off!" or "Dance with your mind, not your feet!" are spoken with the straightest of faces. And the audience who watches from the sidelines as two challengers hit the dance mats for a game of BBR aren't laughing at our characters, because what they see unfolding before them isn't an arcade game, or a joke, but a way of life.

Inexplicably, the entire movie is one absurd allegory of the Civil War. Two gangs, the 248 (the good guys from the north part of Frazier Park) and the 245 (the baddies from the south) are vying for dominance of the FP. The secret "training" headquarters for the 248 is mentioned as once being used in the Underground Railroad movement. The 245 is led by L-Dubba-E (aka Lee, aka Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate Army). His lesser soldiers wear Confederate soldier hats and proudly display flags of the same. Allusions to Abraham Lincoln are made throughout the film. What it all means I couldn't say, but it's oddly appropriate to see something so historically significant, important, and realistically scary as the Civil War woven through such a strange tapestry of dancing and urban slang.


One smoky night, Btro and L-Dubba-E challenge each other to a game of BBR, and the match grows so heated that Btro literally dies on the mat, sharing an absurdly touching moment with his brother before descending to that big techno club in the sky.

Jtro glares at the heavens as he vows, "I'm never playing Beat Beat Revolution again!" and sets off to a life of isolation as a lumberjack.

But there are people from the FP who haven't forgotten about Jtro, and they beg him to return to his roots and help them regain control of their hometown from the 245s.

A visually impressive amalgamation of other films like Rocky, 8 Mile, The Warriors, and even Mad Max, The FP immediately grabs your attention with its off-kilter approach, and once it does, you are drawn into this peculiar world almost effortlessly, simultaneously laughing at the strange characters and their strange way of life, but also rooting for the boys from the 248 without even realizing it.


Jason Trost as Jtro has the hardest job as the lead character. He has lost his brother, and so he is a broken man; however, the other characters surrounding him are by contrast dynamic and quirky, energetic and bizarre. They have the ability to mask their own understanding of how silly their film is with their own idiosyncratic performances. Trost, however, remains dour for most of the movie, repeating the most ridiculous of lines while remaining stoic, calm, and disenchanted. The FP depends on his performance to work, and so it does.

Special mention must be made of Art Hsu and his manic performance as KC/DC. He remains energetic from the first minute until the last, serving as MC over all the BBR challenges and badly singing a profane version of the National Anthem (not so much of the United States, but of Frazier Park). He shares one particularly amusing scene where he explains that L-Dubba-E has come into ownership of the FP's sole liquor store, but refuses to sell its booze, forcing people to look to meth to satisfy their addictions. In a teary-eyed monologue, he explains that without booze, there are no bums, and because there are no bums, there is no one to feed the ducks...and so the ducks stop coming to the FP. "And what kinda town ain't got no mothafuckin' ducks?!" he demands through his tears. Hsu is not only the heart of The FP, but the catalyst, as it is he who retrieves Jtro from his lonely life and convinces him to come back and fight for all that the 248 have lost.

Lastly, The FP has perhaps the greatest final shot of all time.


Produced by the folks who brought you Paranormal Activity and Insidious, The FP is brought to you by Drafthouse Films, the infamous Texas-based movie theater who have for years hosted special screenings of films new and old. The FP marks another release by their relatively new distribution banner, and if it's just a taste of things to come, I look enthusiastically forward to their new venture.

The FP begins a limited theatrical release beginning March 16. To see if it's playing in your city, or for more info on the movie, go here.

Grade: A+



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