SXSW 2012: THE FP Review

     March 16, 2012


Is Walter Hill’s The Warriors too “serious” for you?  Feel that there simply aren’t enough rhythm-based video games represented on film?  Do you like ridiculous mohawks, blinged-out grills, bizarre slang terminology,  and Rocky movies, especially if all those things are happening at the same time?  Do futuristic sci-fi films blow your skirt up?  Well, buddy, have I got the movie for you.  Jason and Brandon Trost’s The FP—which debuted at last year’s SXSW Film Festival—is finally arriving in arthouse theaters this week, and with its arrival comes to the chance to see one of the strangest, funniest, most balls-out gonzo indie films of the past decade.  Wanna know more?  Read on for my review, after the jump…

the-fp-imageWhat does one call the Trost Bros’ The FP?  It’s such an amalgamation of genres, such a everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sorta film, that it gleefully defies simple classification.  One might call it a comedy—which it is, first and foremost—and they’d be right, but one might also call it a sci-fi flick, or a “warring gangs” film in the vein of The Warriors.  Others might consider it a stab at cult filmmaking, while the next guy might peg it as a “video game” movie.  Some of these descriptions are more correct than others, but none of them are completely incorrect.

And so, before one has even seen the film, one feels inclined to respect what the Trost Brothers—Jason and Brandon—have done here.  After all, it’s not every day that one gets to see a film that’s this gonzo, this willingly ridiculous, this hard-to-classify.

I’m looking forward to telling you about the flick below, but before we go any further, lemme just get this out of my system:  I loved The FP.  It works hard, it’s smarter than it appears at first glance, and it has one ferociously entertaining storyline.  If you’re into “weird”, cult films, or—improbably—arcade favorite Dance Dance Revolution, you’re gonna have a blast.

The FP (which stands for Frazier Park) takes place at some undetermined time in the future, where the sale of booze is restricted and warring gangs have taken to playing a game suspiciously similar to Dance Dance Revolution – here it’s called “Beat Beat Revelation”—in order to settle their grievances with one another.  As the film opens, brothers JTRO (played by Jason Trost) and BTRO (Brandon Barrera) are about to take part in one of these battles.  Specifically, BTRO is about to take on L-Dubba-E (Lee Valmassy, who—it should be noted—is the best thing in the entire goddamn movie), and they’re surrounded by a rowdy, booze-swilling, bizarrely-dressed, chanting crowd.  In short order, BTRO goes down, and just like that L-Dubba-E is top dog of Frazier Park.

the-fp-movie-image-5Depressed and alone, JTRO retreats, only to be coaxed out of mourning a short time later by fellow gang members KCDC (Art Hsu, a riot) and BLT (Nick Principe).  Their plan?  To train JTRO to play Beat Beat Revelation, just as his brother before him did.  If he gets good enough, he might just be able to knock L-Dubba-E off the pedestal he’s placed himself on.  It might not get all these guys out of the raggedy camper-trailers they call home, and it might not restore their community to its former glory, but at the very least it’ll be nice not having a raving sociopath in charge of things.

And so, the majority of The FP concerns JTRO’s training, his ongoing courtship of L-Dubba-E’s ladyfriend, Stacy (Caitlyn Folley, who’s also excellent in her role), and his gang’s attempt to rid Frazier Park of L-Dubba-E’s tyrannical ways once and for all.  It’s basically an “underdog/boxing” movie, only instead of, say, Rocky running up those legendary steps in Philly and taking on Apollo Creed, you’ve got JTRO frantically training his feet with a quartet of tires and a villain with a gold grill, a Mohawk, and a need to shriek everything he says.

It’s absolutely unhinged.

Because The FP presents itself with a straight face, the film succeeds.  Had the brothers Trost played things with a knowing wink or just a little more silliness, the whole thing would have fallen apart, but the the directors strike a perfect balance here.  Against all odds, I found myself genuinely giving a sh-t about upcoming bout against L-Dubba-E, rooting for him during the training montage(s) and getting caught up in the story.  Indeed, when the film arrived at its flat-out-hilarious final shot, it was everything I could do not to clap (I was sitting in my living room, and this would’ve been awkward for my dogs).

the-fp-movie-image-1It’s obvious that the film was made on an extremely limited budget, but the Trosts make the most of it in some truly spectacular ways:  the costumes are purposefully cheesy and tossed-together, but they’re also presented as part of this fictional world’s general aesthetic;  the sets look cobbled-together and on the verge of falling apart, but that makes sense given the general state of things in Frazier Park;  the actors aren’t universally excellent, but the weak links in the chain seem less like “cheap actors” than “commentary on the sort of actors usually hired to star in cult films”.  It’s all just extremely clever, and it helps that it’s carried by a very, very funny script.

Let’s talk about that script.  Written by the Trosts and based on a short film they made a few years prior, the actors speak with a very specific sort of lingo, rattling off bizarre bits of slang without ever making concessions to the audience.  When the film begins, you’re going to hear a few words that simply don’t make sense, but by the time the film wraps, you’ll be able to identify these slang terms with ease (and might even find yourself working them into conversations, if that’s the kinda thing you’re prone to).  Besides the bizarre verbiage (think Clockwork Orange),  I thought the the script was also extremely clever, working as a parody of underdog movies, futuristic sci-fi flicks, and The Warriors simultaneously.  I can’t imagine the sort of audience member who’d watch this thing and not have a good time, but I can assure you that anyone who can’t get onboard with what the Trosts have written here is not a person I want to spend a lot of time with.

the-fp-movie-posterThat reminds me:  earlier in the week, I caught Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at The End at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, and I found myself wondering what all the hype had been about.  The film wasn’t bad, per se, it just wasn’t as insanely brilliant and well-directed as I’d expected it to be (based, of course, on the hype I’d heard coming out of Sundance).  Virtually everyone I know that saw the film loved it, and I felt like the lone standout whenever the film was mentioned in conversation.

I suspect that there will be more than a few people that’ll feel the same way about The FP:  it’s so strange—so specific in its style, dialogue, costumes, and presentation—that it’s almost guaranteed to be an “all or nothing” kinda film.  While I found just as many things to love about John Dies at The End as I did things not to love, I realize that (for many film geeks) the idea of a “middle ground” does not exist, and as such, I expect that The FP will inspire some pretty wicked online debates when it arrives in theaters this week.  It’ll be awesome watching the haters rage against this particular machine.

The FP is being distributed by Drafthouse Films, who also distributed Four Lions and the upcoming The ABC’s of Death (just wait’ll you see the red-band trailer for that one;  your heads are gonna asplode), and—as a frequent visitor to most of Austin’s Drafthouse theaters—that makes all the sense in the world.  This is precisely the sort of film that your film geekiest friend would recommend to you, and who is (Drafthouse owner) Tim League if not the world’s film geekiest friend?  So far, Drafthouse Films has a prefect track record, and—with any luck—The FP will prove to be a modest enough hit that we’ll be seeing more from them and the Trost Brothers in the near future.

If you’re partial to weird stuff, video games, cult movies, blowjob jokes, and/or fringe cinema, make a point to see The FP.  I’ll be stunned if you’re disappointed by it, but that’s OK:  if that’s the case, you and I weren’t meant to be pals, anyway.

My grade?  A-

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  • Dsimolke

    What were your thoughts on the trailer for this? I have been reading about it and would probably like to see it considering I’m always a fan of this sort of off-the-wall cult type movie. But I genuinely did not think the trailer was very good at all.

  • Dsimolke

    How was this a SXSW review if you were sitting in your living room with your dogs during the last shot? Was it On Demand, and how would that be at a festival? Am i missing something here

  • Dsimolke

    I usually like this sort of movie but didn’t think the trailer was very good at all. Does it not portray the movie very well? Also, how were you in your living room with your dogs when you saw this, but the article says it’s a SXSW review? Do they have an On Demand platform that you’re counting as being at the festival? Am I missing something here

  • Dsimolke

    I usually like this sort of flick, but didn’t think the trailer was very good at all. Did it do a poor job representing the movie? Also, how did you see this movie at home with your dogs if the article says this is a SXSW review? Do they have an On Demand platform you’re just counting as a festival screening? Am I missing something here

    • SkaOreo

      Ummm…You do realize that part of the perks of being a film reviewer is that you receive dvd screeners from the studios, right?

      • Dsimolke

        A.) I’m sorry my post showed up so many times. I don’t think it was of great importance or anything. The site kept saying the code didn’t work and it wasn’t showing up, so I re-posted. I guess it was some technological error I just don’t understand. My apologies.

        B.) (directed at SkaOreo) No shit. Of course I realize this. I also would refrain from using the word “studio” (given its connotations in the film industry) when talking about a movie like “The FP.” My confusion stems from the fact that the article states it is an “SXSW Review,” which insinuates it was seen AT the SXSW Film Festival (just as this same reviewer’s write-up on V/H/S states). After re-reading the article I see that it premiered at last year’s SXSW, which is my fault for misreading. The reason I asked this question is because every other review on this site, or any site really, that includes “Festival (regardless of which festival in particular) Review” means it was viewed at that festival. Waiting in line for the movie and seeing it in a theater included. If you would have actually read my comments this would be clear (of course, I myself failed to read the first paragraph of this review clearly, which I have pointed out, but does not entirely dismiss my question). I saw Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie On Demand at my house while it was at the Sundance Film Festival (or had just finished playing there, I’m not certain if I was off by a day or two) but wouldn’t consider my viewing to be “at the Sundance Film Festival.” Hopefully this is clear to you now. It’s a pretty reasonable question, and quite honestly a minor one, that comes only from my own curiosity.

        C.) I asked if the trailer represents the movie well because it’s playing at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis near my apartment as part of a midnight-circuit soon and I would like to potentially see it since I’m normally a fan of cult movies (and absolutely any movie that is an example of genuine expression). Thanks. Love the site.

      • Dsimolke

        No shit, “SkaOreo.” I wonder who wouldn’t know that. I said that because the article said it was a SXSW review, insinuating it was seen at the actual festival (standing in line and in a theater) and not in your own home. Just like any other site, as well as this same reviewer’s review of V/H/S. I saw Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie On Demand in my own home while (or right after) it was at the Sundance Film Festival, but don’t refer to my viewing as being “a Sundance Film Festival viewing.” It’s a pretty reasonable, and minor, question.

        To the reviewer, I apologize that my comments showed up so many times, I didn’t think my question was of great importance or anything. The site just said the code didn’t work, and my post didn’t show up, so I tried a couple more times. I guess it’s a technical error I don’t understand. Also, I asked about the trailer because The FP is playing as part of a midnight circuit here in Minneapolis at The Lagoon soon, and I was wondering if it’d be worth it to go. Thanks. Love the site.

  • Jason

    Buggy site issues aside,is there a reason you have to keep re-posting? Clearly you DO feel that your statements require attention. See the movie or don’t…nobody cares. If you judge every movie by the trailer then you’re doing it wrong. I don’t think a true fan of “cult movies” would care about a trailer anyway seeing that cult movies are sometimes soo notably bad that that’s their charm. Poofer.