Review: The FP (SXSW)
PLOT: In a futuristic society, warring gangs battle each other not with knives or guns but with "Beat Beat Revolution," a hip-hop dancing video game. When J-Tro's mentor dies in battle, he retires from the game, but is drawn back in with the promise of redemption and saving the town's ducks.
REVIEW: THE FP, which is slang for the Frazier Park area of California, is a comedic riff on a ton of 80s action/sports movies you saw on HBO when you were a kid. It's a fairly standard premise of an athlete/warrior at the top of his game who witnesses a tragedy, retires, is sucked back into his old life and trains like a motherfucker to get revenge on those who did him wrong. But THE FP does it like something you haven't seen before.
Director Jason Trost, who also stars as cycloptic hero J-Tro, approaches THE FP not as a jokey satire but plays it straight all the way through. There are no jokes really, despite the film being a comedy by-and-large. The joke is that you're supposed to think it's funny that a bunch of white guys from the future talk like rejected members of NWA, dress like it's 1983 and are really, really serious about "Beat Beat Revolution." Whether that joke works or not is largely up to individual audience members and a hit or miss affair.
Unlike many other films at this year's SXSW, THE FP has no problem balancing different tones of the movie. This is because there is only one tone to THE FP; way, way over the top. When it works - a rousing speech from KC/DC (Art Hsu, in a gangbuster performance) convincing J-Tro to return or the film's hilarious closing shot - it works very well. But when it doesn't, it becomes as ridiculous as the films its sending up.
On a technical level, the film is a marvel. Beautifully shot by DP Brandon Trost (MACGRUBER, CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE), the film looks exactly like early Bruckheimer/Simpson productions and lends an aura of credibility to the otherwise silly goings-on. Continuing to keep it in the family, Jason Trost hired his sister, fashion designer Sarah Trost, to work on the film's costumes and her works brings a style and flair distinct to each particular character.
Sticking with the tone of the movie, the actors never wink at the camera nor give audiences the inkling that they know just how ridiculous spouting "Nigga!" or ending every sentence with "...and shit" actually sounds and that helps the movie along when it drags. Hsu, who starred as Johnny Vang in CRANK, in particular shines as the "Beat Beat" MC and trainer of J-Tro with an infectious, bug-eyed intensity.
The success of THE FP largely depends on how willing you are to accept the film and its particular brand of ludicrous comedy. It was a film that sharply divided audiences in Austin and will likely do the same upon release (though I can imagine this will find itself a devoted cult following).
THE FP could've played itself for laughs and been a more solid comedy like HOT ROD. The Trost family is playing it straight though and while that works on a limited level, THE FP could've been much more.