Several questions immediately invade the mind after viewing 'The FP,'' one of this year's SXFantastic film selections and already the leading contender for the strangest film to find its way to a movie screen in 2011. Most of the questions, like "Who made this thing? (Jason and Brandon Trost, making their feature debut) and "Does this movie actually exist?" (yes), are easily answered. Others, like "What giddily insane spirit possessed the souls of everyone involved and actually allowed this movie to get made?" don't have such obvious answers, but they also don't require them. 'The FP' is fueled by black-souled, delightfully vulgar anarchy and like great punk rock, over-thinking it just sinks the experience. You've just got to go with it.
Set in a vaguely post-apocalyptic near future (or perhaps a terrifyingly silly alternate universe circa 1985), the 'Escape From New York'-esque opening scroll and narration set the stage: there are two rival gangs locked in a continuous battle for control of the town of Frazier Park and while their goals may be conventional, their methods are certainly not -- battles are not conducted through violent altercations on the streets, but rather through one-on-one competitions in a dancing arcade game called Beat Beat Revelations.
Our story really takes off when the heroic gang leader BTRO (Brandon Barrera) dies mid-game, leaving mohawked rival and all around-horrible dude L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) the victor. After a year of self-imposed exile, BTRO's eye-patched younger brother JTRO (Jason Trost) returns to reclaim the FP and restore his gang's honor.
And from there, 'The FP' becomes a perverse parody of Hollywood conventions, trotting out worn-out plot points and story devices and contorting them to fit this twisted world. Are there training montages? You bet. Is there a rekindled romance between our hero and the woman he loves, who's currently shacked up with the big baddie? Of course. The big difference is that they occur in a world populated by characters dressed like they belong in 'The Road Warrior' and speaking in an absurdly complicated slang that sounds like early '90s gangster tropes met 'A Clockwork Orange' in a head-on collision.
It's all so very silly, but the film refuses to acknowledge that fact, treating every moment and performance with a deadpan stoicism that manages to simultaneously mock and revere every convention the Trost brothers are parodying. The comedy of 'The FP' does not come from jokes or gags, but from the film's steadfast, almost level-headed commitment to an absolutely ludicrous premise. The laughs are the same kind you get from watching idiotic blockbusters like 'Armageddon', but the difference here is that they're intentional.
Everyone's in on the joke but doing their absolute best to make sure they don't show their hand. No one ever winks at the camera. Even the silliest characters, like Art Hsu's energetic emcee KCDC, never betray the reality. Hsu's film stealing work is hilarious because he commits to an insane character, not because he's asking for a laugh. Also important is the film's cinematography: slick, stylish and often atmospheric work that looks like it belongs in a science fiction or action film rather than a comedy.
The film's straight-faced, high drama tone only further highlights that this is one filthy movie, filled with all kind of awful debauchery that simply cannot be unseen. While 'The FP' playfully tweaks with convention in its structure and story, it fills every available moment with pitch-black vulgarity, scenes and characters so deliriously wrong and offensive -- but taken so seriously! -- that it's a shock to the system. The dialogue, slur and profanity-laden all of it, is strange and dense, forcing you to keep up with the wordplay.
With the economy tanking and school grades plummeting, the world of 'The FP' often feels like a pretty damning (if not realistic) depiction of an America in ruin: a bunch of white guys fighting over their rundown po-dunk town using video games, thoroughly abusing the English language and treating women like objects to be won and thrown out. For all of its silliness and raunchiness 'The FP's faux-celebration of post-apocalyptic white trash behavior can't help but feel like a condemnation of everyone and everything the Trost brothers find fascinating and horrifying about people in general.
'The FP' is the rare "ready-made cult hit" that actually works. It's an uncommon combination: a fearless, low-budget indie that's not necessarily made for mass consumption, but made with confidence and skill by guys who grew up devouring cheesy blockbuster cinema, a love letter and a middle finger to Hollywood. It's really something else.