I missed The FP when it played SXSW, but I didn’t miss hearing about it after it screened. Folks talked about it (some said it was great, others thought it was awful; all agreed it was something original to behold) and I lamented missing the screenings. A while later I caught the trailer for the film and to say I was less than impressed would be an understatement. Lots of “wait, is this supposed to be funny… what the Hell is this?” in my reaction, but nevertheless I was interested in seeing the film for myself anyway.
Which brings us to now, as The FP has graced my blu-ray player, thanks to its release by Drafthouse Films, and… I loved it! The FP is a film lovingly informed by the nonsense of 80s cinema and music videos, and it doesn’t matter that you know the basic story because of all the films that came before; that knowledge only enhances it, and shows how clever the filmmakers really are in their creation.
The FP takes place in rural Frazier Park (get it, FP), in some alternate reality where gangs dress like the descendants of a break dance crew and the thugs from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video. Slang and profanity reign supreme, and the leader of the 248 gang, BTRO (Brandon Barrera), faces off against the leader of the 245 gang, L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy), in a dance battle on the video game “Beat-Beat Revelation.” Unfortunately for BTRO, he not only loses the battle, he dies right on the spot, in the arms of his brother JTRO (Jason Trost), who swears to never play the game again before leaving town in exile.
Cut to a year later, and JTRO is working as a lumberjack (or something) when 248’er KCDC (Art Hsu) comes calling, imploring JTRO to return to the FP. Turns out things have gotten bad since BTRO’s defeat, and L Dubba E now owns the FP liquor store, putting him in control of who does or doesn’t get alcohol (the far-reaching effects of which, when KCDC tearfully explains, had me laughing out loud). JTRO reluctantly returns to the FP and finds that things are even worse than he imagined; L Dubba E not only has the liquor store, he also has JTRO’s crush, Stacy (Caitlyn Folley).
As one would expect, JTRO challenges L Dubba E to a “beat off,” and the stage is set for the eventual third act battle of “Beat-Beat Revelation.” In the interim, JTRO trains with the help of DC and BLT (Nick Principe), while trying to win the heart of Stacy. Absurdity ensues, and I had a blast.
The film looks gorgeous, has a score that’s a mix of video game techno, John Carpenter-esque, ’80s-friendly synth scores and training montage-music, and is just the right amount of insane to make me a lifelong fan. If you’re really into the vibe the film sets up, and the films and genres it’s aping, it’s hard to find fault with it; it is everything that is great about those cheesy action film revenge flicks coupled with the style of a break dancing video, all the while existing in some parallel small town reality.
Which is hilarious in and of itself. Except for the characters most prominently on display in the film, everything and everyone else just seems to be living a normal, small town rural life. It only seems like some intense, dystopian future because the gangs are dressed weird and battling via “Beat-Beat Revelation,” but in the end L Dubba E, while looking like Mr. T, is really only the guy who runs the liquor store in town; there are other shopping options for anyone willing to take a drive outside of the FP. It’s absurd all the way. And, again, I loved it.
Taking a cue from the Criterion Collection, the Drafthouse Films blu-ray is numbered by the catalog release (The FP being number 2; was Four Lions number 1?), and loaded with extras, including audio commentary with the Trost Brothers, making of featurettes, trailers and a 16-page booklet featuring introductions by Rob Zombie, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (and unlike some of the more hard to penetrate scholarly essays that accompany other discs, these intros are not only fun to read, they’re also insightful). Let’s face it, if you’re going to release films, the Criterion mode of doing so is a great one to emulate, and the disc doesn’t disappoint.
I missed the train when The FP was first leaving the station, but I’m firmly on-board now. It really lives up to the hype of a cult-classic-on-delivery film, which really surprised me. I mean, you don’t make a cult film; that status is earned, right? In the case of The FP, it’s hard not to see it as a cult film… even if I have to start the damn cult myself.