Control Nathan Rabin 4.0 #21 The FP (2011)
Welcome to the latest and most assuredly not the greatest entry in Control Nathan Rabin 4.0. It’s the column where I give you, the kind-hearted, preposterously good-looking Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place patron, an opportunity to choose a film I must watch and then write about in exchange for a one-time, one hundred dollar pledge.
I’m lucky to have this feature. It’s pumped much-needed income into the site after new pledges hit a wall about five months back but I never know exactly why patrons want me to see and write about the films they choose. Are they passionate evangelists on behalf of some half-obscure trifle and want me to help spread its curious gospel? Or, have they not seen the film they’ve nominated and are wealthy enough to use me as the pop-culture equivalent of a Royal Taster? Alternately, do they just take pity on me and my Willy Lomanesque existence trying to survive the unfortunate current pop culture media apocalypse and want to slide a little filthy lucre my way for some honest labor?
I honestly don’t know what patrons want me to do with selections like 2011’s The FP. It’s a pre-fab instant cult movie about a dystopian future that looks and feels suspiciously like a neon nightmare fantasy of Ronald Reagan-era hyper kitsch where warring factions do battle via a Dance Dance Revolution-like arcade game called Beat Beat Revelation.
On paper it doesn’t sound terribly dissimilar from Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, which I covered for this column not too long ago. Both are proudly post-modern, meta-textual exercises in Reagan-Bush era nostalgia that lovingly resurrect the beloved garbage of our past, catering unashamedly to the tongue-in-cheek, camp-loving, pop-culture-crazed sensibilities of people who actively seek out movies they know will be terrible in hopes of encountering transcendent trash.
The FP looks half-tantalizing and half dreadful on paper, like something to dread as well as something to look forward to. I watched the first few minutes or so a few months back and was distinctly unimpressed with the film’s lumbering tone of heavy-handed, self-satisfied irony and easy, lazy kitsch. Surely there had to be more to the movie than its 1980s dance party-gone-Mad Max visual aesthetic and delusional belief that nothing in the world is funnier than a cartoonish approximation of black 1980s slang coming out of the mouths of white people and Asians, right?
Well, friends, I have now endured eighty minutes of The FP and I can wearily attest that my first impression of the film was all too accurate. This is not a motion picture. This is a reasonably clever seven minute short film that, even at eighty minutes runs about seventy minutes too long. Even more perversely, for a movie about a world where a giddy, goofy, fun game like Dance Dance Revolution is quite literally a matter of life and death, The FP is perversely stingy in doling out actual scenes of its characters dancing competitively, its only real strength beyond production design that’s fun when it’s not overbearing, relentless and random, which is most of the time.
Jason Trost, who also co-wrote and directed along with his brother Brandon, stars as JTRO, a dance warrior whose life revolves around taking on all comers in Beat Beat Revelation alongside his brother and partner in dance BTRO. That all changes one tragic night when BTRO dies playing Beat Beat Revelation, causing his brother to lose faith in the game and in civilization and escape into the rustic existence of a lumberjack.
The idea that someone could die from losing a dance-based arcade video game is the film’s most inspired gag. Unfortunately, it’s also the movie’s only inspired gag. I laughed out loud at BTRO dying on the battlefield of a dopey dance competition game. I did not laugh ever again. I did not smile. I looked repeatedly at my wrist to see how much longer I had to go and I don’t even have a wrist watch. That’s how bored I was.
JTRO returns to the world he left behind and fights for the soul and the future of the FP (Frazier Park) when he’s recruited by friend KCDC (Art Hsu) to take on a fearsome threat to the neighborhood and the community in the form of L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) the leader of the 248 gang, which clashes eternally with JTRO’s 245 clique..
L Dubba E brings a bit of Twiztid’s ghetto hillbilly clown shtick to the role of JTRO’s arch-nemesis and the movie’s primary bad guy that made me sad all over again that Twiztid and the rest of Majik Ninja Entertainment will probably never play the Gathering or do official Psychopathic shows ever again. I’ve never particularly enjoyed Twiztid or their music but I can only imagine how overjoyed Juggalos would be if mom and dad finally stopped fighting and got back together. Can you even imagine how a lit an upcoming Gathering featuring the return of the prodigal sons like Twiztid,, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Boondox would be? Of course you can. So why can’t we make this beautiful dream a reality?
With his eyepatch, lanky frame and Scott Disick-of-the-trailer-park looks, the wooden Trost comes off as a Spenser’s Gifts version of Snake Plissken. Every other character is a very minor variation on a ubiquitous stock character from 1980s and 1990s teen comedies: the blindingly white poser who speaks exclusively in a comically incongruous white person bastardization of Ebonics. Think Seth Green in Can’t Hardly Wait.
That painful and woefully over-used trope is something to be endured rather than enjoyed even in small doses. When that’s seemingly the only source of humor it becomes painful, particularly when this clumsy white conception of black culture revolves overwhelmingly around white and Asian characters throwing around the N word with disconcerting casualness.
The first time a white character calls another white character the n word it’s jarring. By the fiftieth time it’s just exhausting and saddening. The Trost brothers were apparently motivated to pepper their silly little goof of a b-movie about corny white kids dancing competitively with a racial slur that has been a source of profound, almost inconceivable pain and sadness over the course of our nation’s complicated and painful racial history because they were playing Grand Theft Auto and a Def Jam fighting game around the same time they were immersed in the world of Dance Dance Revolution and thought it would be funny to juxtapose the game’s wildly disparate worlds in a futuristic, dystopian hellscape.
Alas, there’s nothing remotely artful or even remotely humorous about the way the movie combines these worlds; it’s mostly just a matter of peppering the screenplay with so many n bombs that if he knew about this movie, convicted sex criminal Bill Cosby would be moved to break out of prison and personally deliver a furious scolding to the disrespectful young people with the potty mouths and the video games where they curse like sailors.
How many N-bombs are tossed around in The FP? Enough to stock a century-long race war, that’s how many.
The FP uses the N word so often and so carelessly that it feels the need to create a Gary Busey-style inspirational/absurdist acronym for it by re-conceiving the word as Never Ignorant at Getting Goals Accomplished or N.I.G.G.A.
If The FP’s goal was to slip as many racial epithets into its eighty minute run time as humanly possible then mission accomplished, but oh what an empty victory!
The FP loves one word above all others but it loves all profanities with the unabashed enthusiasm of a 12 year old first discovering the magic of swear words for the first time. Much of the dialogue is a clumsy, tone-deaf, ear-abusing attempt at 1980s black slang but the Trost brothers aren’t shy about straying regularly from recognizable if clumsy and outdated slang and creating their very own painful vernacular of mad-phat stupid dumb jibber-jabber from the past, yo. It’s like Brick, only terrible.
Here’s an example of some of the movie’s insufferably slangy dialogue:
“I gotta know if you’re serious as a deep throating dyke about this shit!”
“It’s going to be Cone Zone as all hell. Maybe I’ll take a look at you there?”
“Shit! A bitch has usually got to drop a whole pile of Lincolns to catch a show that good.”
“He’s illin’ for a killin’. He’s just got one of those mugs.”
“Back your stank-ass shit off my flava.”
For extra #problematic points, JTRO’s love interest is a sloppy, drunken, promiscuous misogynistic caricature of a “bad girl”, the kind who quips of getting pregnant with the bad guy’s kid, “That coat hanger thing fixed that shit right up” and has a tragic trans dad whose gender-bending fashion sense is played for derisive laughs.
You’d think that a movie about a children’s game like Dance Dance Revolution would be animated by joy, by innocence, by excitement over a particularly childish diversion. You would be wrong. The FP is a strangely sour, misogynistic, profane and misanthropic misfire that, of course, has somehow prompted a sequel that should be hitting undiscriminating film festivals soon.
I hope the sequel, titled Beats of Rage, learns from its predecessor and goes a little lighter on the N word, but judging from the first film in the franchise, I’m not sure what the filmmakers would have left if they were to forgo that most fraught, loaded, and, in the case of The FP at least, over-used of terms.
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