Film Review – The FP
Somewhere in the future lays an apocalypse. With all the pretenses to such an event—gangs overrunning what’s left of society, a lack of resources, duels to the death—you would think it would look a lot worse than what it does in the Trost brothers’ feature film debut, The FP. However, to make a judgment like that is to ignore the reason the film exists: the 1980s. A long time ago, when Coke and Pepsi waged a war, punk rock turned pop sensibilities into oxymorons, and the Cold War made everyone paranoid a nuke might send us into Mad Max’s world, the economy boomed. Reaganomics caused a lot of money to be funneled all over the place, and Hollywood provided no shortage of epic fantasy, sci-fi and action films that infiltrated theaters, video cassettes, and late-night cable. One genre that caught on for a bit was the post-apocalypse film. Mad Max of course helped popularize the concept of a world after nuclear holocaust, but the market was soon to see the likes of A Boy and His Dog, Defcon 4, Survivor, and The Bronx Warriors, to name a few.
Jason and Brandon Trost have created with The FP a send-up of the post-nuke films of the ’80s, and then decided to also drag in the underdog dance film. Echoes of Footloose, Flashdance, and Breakin’ are littered throughout. In this non-descript post-apocalyptic world, gangs rule the land, and each fights for their neighborhood or territory. Take the concept of the Thunderdome (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) and mix in a slightly altered version of the video game Dance Dance Revolution, and you have the basic concept of what The FP is all about. When BTRO (Brandon Barrera), the brother of our hero JTRO (Jason Trost), is killed in a dance-off in the game Beat Beat Revolution by L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy), it’s up to JTRO to rise up and win back the championship for his ‘hood, The FP.
The Trost brothers have done a great job of crafting a parody that neither winks nor nudges the audience with any indication that it is a parody. Relying only on the viewer’s sensibilities and knowledge, the movie presents its utterly absurd plot as just as straight as the films it’s sending up. From Jason Trost’s look as JTRO to the film’s score, there are imprints of John Carpenter that reverberate with the sentiment of playing it straight against fantastic elements. JTRO carries the look of a Snake Plissken fanboy. (Though it should be noted that Jason Trost apparently always wears an eye patch. Or so says his IMDB page, at least.) The film’s cinematography, editing, and pacing are on par with the best indie art house films, and yet carry the air of an unabashed post-nuke dance film that could almost fit in the Troma library if it wasn’t so well made and had more vile behavior.
The costume design, which was done by the acclaimed Sarah Trost, sister to Jason and Brandon, is a character all its own and provides the film with an even greater depth in its function as a parody. As Sarah Trost recently wrote in an article for i09, the costumes for the film were purchased mostly from thrift stores, and in doing so, she gave the film a colorful touch. For example, one of the funniest aspects of the film is watching someone dance upon the video game’s foot pad with giant moon boots on; that would clearly not work in any practical sense.
The film goes to no lengths to set up the environment it takes place in. Hints of it being a post-apocalyptic world are only scattered about in the way people behave. However, there are cars with gasoline, and television sets, and a general sense of normalcy only slightly removed into a world apparently littered with junk, like some ghetto set meeting the show Hoarders. What we end up with is a send-up that aligns with the genre in question. Like the post-nuke films of the ’80s, a set-up is almost a waste of time that could be used for the things audiences really want: dance-offs, fisticuffs, villains who look and talk like Mr. T, and, of course, high speed chases.
What stops The FP short of being an almost perfect parody—and a comedy that could stand on its own—is its poor choice of what is “humor” at times. During one chase sequence, the person being chased forces a woman to pleasure him while the person chasing them is trying to rescue her. Any sort of rape is never funny. The joke of the blow job also continues on in the film, and never once feels like it’s helping complement everything else that makes this into the tight exercise it wants to be. In fact, the humor during these moments feels so childish and out of place that it practically overshadows what is good, when everything is said and done.
Despite its flaws, The FP is a breath of fresh air in a time when most comedies are hamming it up for family audiences, dumbing down the film’s grammar to ensure that everyone gets it. Which is why this film excels where it does: it never treats its audience like it’s stupid—immature, maybe, but never stupid. Instead, the film relies on the absurdity of what it’s presenting to derive most of its humor. And because of that, I’m interested to see what Jason Trost has in store as a filmmaker, as he is busy underway with a superhero send-up. Should be interesting, at least, and that’s far better than predictable or boring.
The FP opens today at SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.
Final Grade: B-