If you’ll indulge me, I feel obliged to begin this entry with a shout-out to the good people at Ground Kontrol. It’s an amazing place, crammed with retro arcade machines, an awe-inspiring collection of pinball games, and a full-service bar. Understand, however, that I’m not just plugging Ground Kontrol because it’s an awesome place that would be worth a trip to Portland all by itself. I’m plugging them because they made tonight’s blog entry possible.
A couple of weeks ago, Ground Kontrol announced that they were putting on a Dance Dance Revolution contest. For those who aren’t aware, I’ve been playing DDR on and off for a decade. I love the game, and playing it is a sort of hidden talent for me. That’s not to say I’m the best — far from it — but I’m definitely better than most. So anytime I hear about a DDR contest in town, that party doesn’t start until I walk in.
So I entered. And I won.
My prize was a free ticket to The FP, a bizarre little movie that hit Hollywood Theater (now with awesome new chairs!) last Friday. What’s the connection? Well, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future in which two rival gangs fight for territory in the town of Frazier Park (hence the title). But they don’t duel with guns or switchblades as modern-day gangs do. They duel by way of a DDR-style video game called “Beat Beat Revelation.”
To repeat, this is a “Warriors-style” movie set in the near future, with fight scenes taking place on dance pads. Even armed with this knowledge, I wasn’t prepared for what this movie would offer.
Let’s back up and get a bit of background. First and foremost, this movie was the brainchild of the Trost Brothers. Brandon Trost earned a name for himself as a cinematographer, behind the lens of such films as Crank: High Voltage, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and MacGruber. Not only did Brandon Trost shoot The FP, but he also co-wrote, co-produced, and co-directed the film alongside his brother, Jason Trost. What’s more, Jason Trost went the extra mile and cast himself as the lead.
Now, it’s not that unusual for the creators of no-budget movies to cast themselves as the lead. But here’s the kicker: The hero’s name is “JTRO.” That’s pronounced “jay-tro.” As in “Jason Trost,” the guy who wrote the role and cast himself in it.
Brace yourselves, folks. Time to dive in.
The movie begins with a meeting between JTRO and his older brother, BTRO (who, oddly enough, was not played by Brandon Trost). They proceed to compete in a “beat-off” (yes, that’s really what they call it), against the champions of their rival gang. In the process, BTRO ends up playing at such a high difficulty that he overexerts himself and dies on the dance pad.
Let’s pause for a second. The movie opens with a character playing
DDR BBR so hard that he dies from overexertion. Call it improbable, but trust me, I know how he feels. That said, I’m sure he might have had an easier time if he wasn’t trying to play with GIANT FUCKING BOOTS. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to figure out that being able to move quickly — with the bare minimum of time and energy spent — is a key part of the game. Trying to work a DDR pad with those huge weights on his feet, the guy was just asking to get hurt. But I digress.
Anyway, JTRO is so distraught over his brother’s death that he immediately screams to the overhead camera that he’ll never “beat-off” again. A year later, JTRO’s gang has pretty much completely disbanded and the bad guy’s group is running the FP into the ground. So naturally, JTRO has to overcome his emotional baggage, win back his street cred, and win a “beat-off” against the bad guy who killed his brother. Oh, and he wins the heart of a love interest along the way. There are some training montages in there, too.
The screenplay reads like it was written by a white fourth-grader with a DVD of Rocky IV and a Lil Wayne CD playing on endless repeat. Not only is the narrative totally predictable and cliched, but the dialogue is pitifully faux-gangsta. The characters spout so many expletives, you’d think the Trosts were getting paid by the four-letter word. For God’s sake, the n-word is thrown around everywhere, and there isn’t a single black person in the cast. The characters use insults that even Urban Dictionary probably wouldn’t recognize.
Eventually, the words and phrases run into each other until all the “imitation gangsta” talk just becomes so much gibberish. I couldn’t understand half of what was being said, and neither could the actors. But the plot is so cookie-cutter that I could have watched the film on mute and understood perfectly what was going on. And anyway, bless the actors’ hearts, they do try so hard.
The actors all do their absolute darnedest to play the entire film straight. Their uber-serious approach stands in hilarious contrast to the ludicrous premise, the paper-thin characters, and the complete lack of talent from anyone onscreen. As a direct result, the “wigger” dialogue shoots right past offensive and goes right into being campy. This isn’t just unintentionally funny, it’s adorable.
In point of fact, I was debating with myself through the entire movie, trying to decide if this presentation was intentionally being humorous or not. But then came the climax, which was preceded by a profanity-laden and wildly off-key interpretation of the National Anthem. No doubt about it, these guys knew exactly what they were doing.
As further evidence, the movie actually looks and sounds relatively good. Oh, the costumes and sets look cheap as hell, don’t get me wrong, but the “garage sale in a garbage dump” theme lends itself nicely to the “post-apocalyptic anarchy” feel. The camera work and production design won’t win any Oscars, but they’re both very good for a production that only cost a million dollars to make. In point of fact, The Room cost $6 million, and the visuals in that movie were far and away crappier.
Then there’s the music in this movie, which is absolutely perfect. I have no idea who George Holdcroft is, but the music he composed for this movie is precisely the kind of energetic and uptempo electronica that gets my DDR player’s heart pounding. All it needs is a shrill woman singing in Japanese and it’d be perfect. I’d also add that the relentlessly happy techno adds to the hilarious contrast with all the po-faced amateur acting on the screen.
The FP is that rare movie which aims to be “so bad it’s good” and succeeds with flying colors. The terrible dialogue and the earnestly pitiful acting mesh together perfectly to hit that elusive spot on the funny bone. Of course, it also helps that the film looks relatively good and the soundtrack is surprisingly awesome. Does all of this mean that it’s a good movie? Fuck no! But if you manage to track down this movie, watch it with your friends after you’ve all gotten thoroughly plastered, and I can guarantee a good time.
Better yet, come up with a drinking game to play as you watch. Here, I’ll start you off: “Take a shot every time someone says ‘Yo.'”