The FP (2011) / Sci Fi-Comedy
MPAA rated: R for pervasive language, sexual content, some nudity and brief drug material
Running time: 82 min.
Cast: Jason Trost, Art Hsu, Caitlyn Folley, Lee Valmassy, Nick Principe, Brandon Barrera
Cameo: Clifton Collins Jr., Dash Mihok, James Remar (voice)
Director: Brandon Trost, Jason Trost
Screenplay: Brandon Trost, Jason Trost
At first glance, The FP would appear to be the putrid byproduct of filmmakers who were looking at IMDB's Bottom 100 films and thought they could make a flick worthy of ranking up there with From Justin to Kelly, Son of the Mask, and Alone on the Dark. But watch it long enough and you begin to realize there is a certain method to the madness, which is that this is a movie made by a small group of people who all know each other, and the intended audience is each other. It is one long in-joke among the creators, and how much you're entertained by it all may come from how readily you identify with the Trost Brothers and the way they probably viewed the world growing up as imaginative but very quirky youths.
But, perhaps it you love movies so out there they defy the benchmarks of what it is to be a good movie, and perhaps even revel in the fact that they are making one of the least appealing movies ever, you might be just the person to enjoy The FP, a film that expends a great deal of energy being crude, crass, juvenile, and without a lick of sense to be found. It's all made on a very limited budget (about $100k), and really it shows, though there are a number of recognizable character actors who participate in small measure, including Dash Mihok (I Am Legend), Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek), Sean Whalen (Employee of the Month), and James Remar (Ratatouille) as the narrator. However, most of the acting involves lots of faux-posturing and wigger-speak (suburban white kids trying to sound 'hood' by calling each other the N word and such), which some people in the audience will find either tacky or offensive, depending on their own perspective. And it gets very tired, very redundant, very quickly.
Written and directed by the Trost Brothers, perhaps from ideas they had since they were teens (the Trosts made the full-length feature out of a short film they had made in 2007, based on an idea they had years prior), The FP of the title refers to Frazier Park, a real town in Kern County, California, much more prone to bored white youth to concoct wild fantasies of being 'gangsta badasses' than in any kind of real-life ghetto squalor, and where the Trosts actually hail from. The setting is sometime in the future, during a period when alcohol has been outlawed and many of the youth of the area are either strung out on drugs or fight in gangs. The gangs means of fighting isn't so much with knives and guns, though they have those too. No, the gangs regularly challenge each other to the rhythm-based video game known as "Beat Beat Revelation" (basically, Dance Dance Revolution) in order to squash their beefs.
Jason Trost (Vs) casts himself as the main character, JTRO (derived from his real name of J. TROst), while Brandon Barrera is cast as his brother, BTRO (derived from his real-life brother, Brandon TROst, a prolific cinematographer). The latter ends up dead while in a heated battle with a rival gang badass know as L-Dubba-E (a play off of the name Lee, played by Lee Valmassy). The loss of his brother sends JTRO into an emotional tailspin that it takes more than a year to recover from, why L-Dubba-E's gang have taken over things, for the worse -- much, much worse. Once he gets his head cleared, the old gang cajole JTRO into getting back into 'Beat Beat' shape in order to avenge his brother and save Frazier Park from the bad boys.
If The FP were merely a cheesy parody of the Rocky films, to which the film pays homage constantly throughout (especially in L-Dubba-E's Mr. T-like Mohawk hairdo, or JTRO's lengthy training montages), perhaps the spoofing might have proven just enough to make it a somewhat palatable experience fo those not intentionally looking for straight-faced campy badness. And that straight face is carried throughout the film, not even a wink that the Trost Brothers know none of this is meant to be taken seriously, no matter how outlandish the characters or events -- every character is played as if what they are doing is absolutely normal, noble, and within the realm of plausibility. It's all played as if life and death really depended on DDR prowess.
While I appreciate filmmakers who want a chance to see some things from their youth come to life on the screen, perhaps some ideas are better left relegated to the old home video tapes and silly cartoons passed around the class. If we, the audience, weren't a part, it has no meaning to us, especially when the Trosts do absolutely nothing to clue us in on their world at all. Taking the approach that this is a real movie meant for wide audiences and not just someone's pet project brought to life, The FP is grating during its best moments and downright repugnant during its worst, and with each passing second many viewers will likely question whether it would be worthwhile to even continue. I did, and it wasn't.
It feels like the kind of thing bored, ironic teens would make when given their first video camera to play with and no idea what they really want to do -- they just want to make a movie and cram a bunch of stuff they like into it. (It reminds me of the kind of stuff I would make as a kid when I got my first tape recorder and started doing my own skits. So funny to me and my friends, but completely irrelevant and way over the heads of anyone not part of our little clique). As such, unless you're one of the Trosts', someone who hangs out with them and their crowd, or just someone who adores the tackiest and oddest of tasteless cinema, The FP's target audience will never include you, and won't be appealing enough to make you wish you could be part of their insular world.
©2012 Vince Leo