Ok folks, we’re going to do something a little different here at SOC. Today I’m going to give the horror a rest for a moment and review a comedy. Woah, woah, woah, calm down. No, the world isn’t ending yet. I just saw the funniest movie I’ve seen in ages and I wanna tell you about it. What? Yes this is still Nathan, mister “all horror all the time/picky as hell about his comedy.” I do watch other things occasionally you know. Anyway, The FP is…huh? Oh for the love of… look people, it’s got Roach from People Under the Stairs and freakin Chromeskull in it, ok? Can I continue now Cellmates? Thank you. Jeez people.
Anyway, The FP is the latest offering from Drafthouse Films. The story goes a little something like this; In a dysopian future, two rival gangs, the 248 (the good guys) and the 245 (the bad guys) are competing for control of The FP; aka Frazier Park. Battles of this magnitude can only be settled one way; a Beat Beat Revelation (think Dance Dance Revolution) match. When 248 hero BTRO dies during a match with the dastardly L Dubba E, leader of the 245, his little brother JTRO goes into exile and swears never to Beat again. One year later, JTRO is a lumberjack, but KCDC, his 245 homie and MC of the Beat matches, finds him and tells him that The FP is in dire straits since L Dubba E and the 245 seized control. L Dubba E has also seized JTRO’s main squeeze, Stacey. KCDC convinces him to train with Beat guru BLT to become the greatest Beat Beat NIGGA (Never Ignorant at Getting Goals Acomplished) who ever lived. Now Jtro must earn his shot at redemption in the form of a Beat Off against L Dubba E, with vengeance for his brother, Stacy, and control of the FP on the line.
First off, the flick looks great. It was reportedly made for less than $100,00, and the only way you can tell is by the relatively small scale of the sets. Much of that is due to the talents of the Trost family. Jason Trost, who plays JTRO, also co wrote and directed the movie with his brother Brandon Trost. Hey, wait a minute, I just noticed that the names of BTRO and his brother JTRO are shortened versions of the real life names of the directors. Huh. Anyway, having Brandon on board was a definite asset, as he is a talented cinematographer. You might know his work from Halloween 2. He also did Crank: High Voltage and the new Ghostrider flick. Don’t hold that against him though. The FP proves that he can shoot a movie beautifully when the director isn’t making him shake the camera like he’s got the dopesick twitches. Well, for the most part, but I’ll get into that later. Not enough credit can be given to their sister Sarah Trost, who designed the wardrobe. The insane outfits set the tone of the flick perfectly. Their dad, Ron Trost, even got in on the act as one of the executive producers and the special effects coordinator. I’ve seen films that cost millions that don’t have the production values these guys wrung out of $100,000. Proof once again that low budget is never an excuse for poor quality.
Second of all, The FP is fun as hell and freakin’ hilarious! Not only did I laugh through the entire movie, I laughed through the entire hour-long ride home. It’s comedy of the ridiculous and ironic. Everything is just so ludicrous that when it’s treated as normal it’s funny. A lot of the comedy also comes from its skewering/honoring/raping of the conventions of all of those 80’s underdog flicks. It has shades of First Blood, The Wizard, Kickboxer, Karate Kid, Rocky, Over the Top, and even 8 Mile. It’s a futuristic retro mashup with nonstop straight-faced goofiness done in a smart yet dumb way. Did that make any sense at all? Basically, if you find stuff like Robot Chicken amusing, you will dig this. I know I did.
With the absurd setting, dialog, costumes, and premise, this flick is in constant danger of tipping over the edge and becoming stupid. Wait…what the hell am I talking about? This movie is stupid. It’s nothing but stupid. The thing is, it’s played so completely straight that the stupidity is hilarious without becoming annoying. If it had done that wink-wink, elbow in the ribs, “see, that’s funny isn’t it?” crap that so many comedies these days are guilty of, it would have ruined any silly charm this flick has. It’s the earnestness of the story and the performances that sell it. The fact that all of the actors play it completely straight is the one thing that makes this movie work, and man does it work. Remember when I reviewed Hobo with a Shotgun and I said that the sincere seriousness and dedication to the premise with which Rutger Hauer delivered absolutely preposterous dialog held the movie together? It’s the same deal here. I give nothing but the utmost respect to the cast, because even though I like to fancy myself a pretty decent actor, I don’t know if I could have maintained a straight face while saying a lot of those lines. I can only imagine the delivery of a line like JTRO emotionally challenging L-Dubba-E to a “Beat off” took quite a few takes.
Speaking of the acting, the cast does a great job. Jason Trost is pitch perfect as the brooding, man of few words, man-on-a-mission underdog hero. Lee Valmassy is a riot as L Dubba E...wait, L Dubba E played by LEE, I see what they did there. Anywho, he’s got a great delivery, basically yelling every word he says. He’s one of the best “funny-idiotic thug” villains of all time. Caitlyn Foley is excellent as Stacy, JTRO’s love interest. She plays strung out but sweet well, and she looks a lot like a prettier Courtney Love. As good as those three leads are, in my opinion the movie belongs to two supporting players. Nick Principe, who you know as Chromeskull, plays BLT, JTRO’s Mr. Miagi. He’s reluctant and standoffish at first, more Senzo Tanaka from Bloodsport than Yoda. Eventually JTRO earns his respect, and he trains our hero in the art of Balance, Expeditiousness, Attitude, and Tempo (BEAT). It turns out Nick isn’t just good as a masked killer, he’s actually got some acting chops. No, nitpickers, I haven’t seen None Can Cool yet. Give me a break here. Anyway, he plays the wise tough-guy, which probably isn’t much of a stretch from some of his other roles, but the dude has serious screen presence and is dead on with the character. He also has some of the best lines in the flick. I interviewed him at Days of the Dead, and we talked about The FP, so watch for that video coming up on the blog. Yes, that was a shameless plug. The other true standout was Art Hsu as KCDC. He basically plays the role of Mekhi Phifer’s character in 8-Mile, the MC/hero’s homey, but far more entertaining. The funniest of the funny moments are his. The duck speech had me literally laughing until I cried, and he delivers my favorite rendition of the Star Spangled Banner EVER. This guy absolutely needs to do more comedy, as his timing is great. He acts as both sidekick and Greek chorus, and was probably the single most important performance as far as anchoring the movie. In a perfect world, it’s Best Supporting Actor nomination worthy work. Sean Whalen also has an awesome cameo, but I’m not saying anything more. It’s better when you don’t know its coming.
The dialog in this movie deserves special mention. I’ve subsequently added some lines from the flick to my regular rotation lexicon. It’s a hyper fast mix of pseudo gangsta slang, idiotic white kid gamer talk, creative, non-stop profanity, and sheer “what the hell did he just say” madness. I’d hate to be the guy trying to bleep this to show on TV. Lines like “Don’t let this shit put your brain on flips yo, you gotta think about Beat Beat like it’s the civil war. Four score and a couple years ago Ma and Pa fought for some serious shit, ya heard” are bound to be quoted for years to come. The amazing one-liners and wacky insults (did he just call him Clam Chowder?) come so fast that you’re never not laughing.
In fact, this movie is incredibly dense. Not in the sense that it’s dumb, but there is a lot going on. The laughs are tightly packed, the bizarre language is flying fast and furious, the sets are incredibly busy, and you spend a lot of the time playing spot the homage. You’ll notice nods to Commando, The Warriors, Rocky 3, Rambo, Blade Runner, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mortal Kombat, Streets of Fire, and a whole lot of others. You also get carried away picking out the 80’s movie clichés, like the training montages, shootouts with revolvers that seemingly have infinite ammo, and some of the most random gratuitous tits ever. I can’t wait until it comes out on DVD, because I have a feeling that repeated viewings will reveal things you didn’t have time to notice before. While this is partially a good thing in that the pace remains brisk and never really settles down for too long, at times it’s a little too fast. I’m sure there were great lines and funny background details that I completely missed because by the time you’re done laughing at one thing, three more have gone by. At times I wished they had slowed down a little bit, particularly the auctioneer level speed delivery of the lines. My only other issue with this film is the final confrontation between JTRO and L Dubba E. That had to be the worst 3rd person shaky cam I’ve seen since, well, Crank: High Voltage. Why did Brandon have to bring in the one worst thing he could have possibly picked up from working with Neveldine and Taylor? It doesn’t even remotely go with the action, it just looks like the cameraman hit an oil slick and was flailing. The rest of the movie looked so good, but this one scene looked damn awful.
There are so many other things I want to say about the movie, but I won’t spoil it. The FP is packed with enough great moments for multiple flicks. Oh. And the ending. The last scene of the flick fits the movie so well that it just couldn’t have ended any other way. In fact, every “prodigal underdog makes good” flick should end that way. The FP is downright sidesplitting. Its quirky humor is wielded skillfilly by the cast and filmmakers, and I can see this becoming a true cult classic. It sounds idiotic, but trust me, seeing is believing. Let me put it this way, I’ve told a lot of people about the movie, and they look at me like “You want me to watch WHAT?” Then I show them the first 10 minutes, and they change their tune to “Oh my god, I have to see it.” I’ll post those 10 glorious minutes at the end of the article. The FP is in limited release right now. If you find a screening near you, go. This is a movie that is meant to be experienced in a theater with preferably either a tipsy or stoned crowd. I anxiously await the inevitable midnight screenings. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. Actually, in the vernacular of the movie, Nathan says ”Check a peep at this flick yo, no matter what smacks you upside the c**ksucker.”