Film Threat archive logo


By Merle Bertrand | February 2, 1998

Never give your film a potential bad review title. A moniker like “The Black Hole,” for instance, lends itself to all sorts of unflattering review comments. Of these, “It sucked” would be not only the most predictable but the most accurate as well. Call your movie “The Stupids” and you’re just begging for a black eye. As for Errol Morris’ disappointing new documentary “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,” this self-fulfilling titular prophecy must unfortunately strike again.
On the surface, this film studies four guys with seemingly disparate jobs; a wild animal trainer, a topiary gardener, a Mole-Rat specialist, and a robot scientist. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, however, to find the film’s obvious human-as-animal common ground, especially given the bonk-on-the-head editing juxtapositions Morris chooses. After two or three of the Mole-Rat guy’s scary gushings about his pets’ behavior while we see human circus performers emulating that behavior, we get the point.
Each of this film’s subjects would have made for an interesting Discovery Channel program on its own. Strung together into this ponderous theatrical cut, however, each occasionally well-done segment was irritatingly cut short by a fadeout, almost as if the film’s embryonic first assembly had been rushed out the door. Thus, instead of a smoothly polished cinematic gem, this latest outing from the maker of the excellent “A Brief History of Time” and “Thin Blue Line” was a raw hunk of cinematic score. In fact, with the notable exception of Robert Richardson’s exceptionally elegant photography, “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” comes across every bit as unfocused and slapdash as its name indicates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. anon says:

    Thank you for the right-on review. The whole premise of the film implies, and perhaps overtly states, that these four subjects are special and ‘crazy’ enough to warrant the Documentary treatment. But, unfortunately, they don’t even come close to being that interesting. Maybe they are the kinds of characters that you’d find on a Discovery show here or there, as the review states. But I’m not even sure they’re interesting enough for that. These four just aren’t that unusual or eccentric at all. The connections between them don’t work, the music is awful, and the cuts to B-movie footage are just gimmicky and pointless. Just a really awkward and forced effort all around.

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon