Editor’s Note: Since The FP is hitting theaters this weekend, we’re bringing back Brian Salisbury’s very enthusiastic review from SXSW 2011. The FP opens in limited release March 16, and will be available to create your own screening nationwide through Tugg.com. For more information on where and when it can be seen, check out Drafthouse Films.
Ah snap! You just stepped into The FP! This is the place where pride is measured by street cred and scores are settled in the ultimate competition: The Revelation. When the greatest competitors around, the guys from the 248, decide to accept the challenge of those dastardly 245’ers, everyone expects the 248 to arise victorious.
The champion of the 248, BTRO (Brandon Barrera), arrives ready for battle and fully prepared to take down the evil leader of the 245: L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy). He brings along his brother, and protégée, JTRO (Jason Trost) to take down another 245 soldier in an opening bout; which he does with ease. But in a nasty turn of events, L Dubba E beats BTRO so savagely in the tournament that he ends up dead. With his hero slain, JTRO vows never to compete again and leaves the FP. Months later, an old friend catches up with JTRO and beseeches him to return home; enlightening him on the sad state of affairs in the FP since JTRO’s retreat. Begrudgingly, JTRO returns to the FP and tries to rebuild his life piece by piece.
The FP is an undeniably unique piece of filmmaking that once again champions the diversity of the SxFantastic Midnight slate. Channeling inspiration from classic underdog stories like Rocky and First Blood as well as more contemporary examples like 8 Mile, The FP infuses a steady stream of exaggerated slang spouted from over-the-top characters and the result is something utterly nonsensical. These characters live in their own world that, while supposedly set in Detroit, is completely divorced from any authentic place or verifiable time period. Examining the sets and costumes, it’s almost as if these characters live in a post-apocalyptic society while the rest of the planet carries on oblivious. That may explain why JTRO wears Snake Plissken’s eye patch.
The comedy in The FP comes from characters playing unflinchingly straight what are ultimately the most absurd situations and conversations imaginable. The use of slang is so ceaseless and, in some cases, manufactured that you may find yourself longing for subtitles. But if you can wade through the bizarre hybrid of ebonics and techno club lingo, you’ll find that the intensity of the actors even as they are spouting nonsense is what makes this film so entertaining. The amount of importance assigned to even the most trivial of events serves as both the comedic core of the film and a clever nod to the tropes of underdog cinema from which the film so heavily borrows. I also love the moments when the characters get so wrapped up in their own lexicon that they can’t even tell what’s being said.
There are moments in The FP that are almost too outlandish to describe. If you are a fan of truly absurdist humor, than these moments will delight you to your core. If that kind of non sequitur comedy is not your particular cup of tea, you may not be able to process things like the reveal of the abusive father or the film’s closing shot. But if you find yourself onboard by the time the title card drops, I can promise you will love the road to the ultimate showdown between the tight-as-hell 248 and the chump-ass posers of the 245.
That being said, The FP is destined to lose people. It is painfully evident that The FP began life as a short film because it soon reaches a point, after the ceaselessly kinetic opening sequence, wherein the premise begins to run exceptionally thin. There is usually a great piece of dialogue or wholly bizarre plot device to reel you back in, but the fact of the matter is that the movie is chock full of fat designed to pad the runtime and qualify The FP as a feature. On the one hand, this is entirely understandable and it didn’t tax much of my patience to lend the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt. But there are also moments where the cycling of identical line reads leads the film down the dark path towards aggravating amateurism. Pair this with the fact that the particular brand of humor in The FP is 100% beholden to a very specific niche of moviegoers and it isn’t hard to understand how polarizing this film can be.
The Upside: A treat for fans of absurdity and unique homages to cult 80s and underdog cinema.
The Downside: Runs out of steam after the first 20 minutes and will lose a large contingent of the audience before the end credits.
B is for B-TRO.