SXSW 2012: THE FP Review

     March 16, 2012

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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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