The FP Written and Directed by Brandon and Jason Trost Starring Jason Trost, Lee Valmassy, Caitlyn Folley, Art Hsu, Nick Principe, and Brandon Barrera Drafthouse Films Release Date: March 16, 2012 (Limited)
For years the small town of Frazier Park, a.k.a. “the FP,” has been fought over by rival gangs of street toughs who settle their differences in a most unique manner – by challenging each other to a dance-fight video game called Beat Beat Revolution. Brothers JTRO (Jason Trost) and BTRO (Brandon Barrera) are the best players in town, but one evening BTRO is defeated in battle by the maniacal L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) and dies in his brother’s arms. JTRO turns his back on the FP and goes into hiding as a lumber worker. His friend and game M.C. KCDC (Art Hsu) tracks him and begs him to return to Frazier Park in order to take down L Dubba E, who has since taken control of the town’s liquor store and therefore has control of the town itself. JTRO is reluctant to face his demons, but ultimately relents and begins his training under the tutelage of BLT (Nick Principe). Once L Dubba E learns of JTRO’s return the two agree to meet for a game of Beat Beat Revolution that will see the loser forced to leave the FP forever. Along the way JTRO falls in love with his longtime crush Stacy (Caitlyn Folley), who is presently on the arm of his archenemy.
To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, The FP is bad. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly bad it is. Expanded from a 2007 short film, this is a movie being primed for instant cult status and would doubtlessly play great with an audience, albeit one in a theater that serves alcohol. Stripped of that safety net, The FP ends up looking like little more than an interesting concept that is poorly executed in nearly every way possible. Using video games as a metaphor for a rite of passage isn’t an unique idea; Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World not only perfected it, but took the concept as far as it could possibly go. That doesn’t mean other filmmakers can’t have some fun with it. But neophyte directors Brandon Trost (the cinematographer on Halloween II and MacGruber) and Jason Trost keep the focus off the Beat Beat Revolution battles for most of the movie, and when we actually get to see them, they’re chopped up to the point of incomprehensibility. These are supposed to be the scenes that matter most in the hackneyed narrative, but they lack energy and a clear sense of purpose. Frazier Park is such a depressing desert dumpwater town with zero redeeming qualities and not really worth fighting for, so why do it? If there is nothing at stake, then the Beat Beat battles are meaningless and just eat up valuable running time. But I’d rather watch them than anything else in the movie because they’re the only moments in The FP that are capable of holding one’s attention.
The bulk of the movie is devoted to its characters, a gaggle of some of the most annoying and unlikable individuals I have ever encountered in a motion picture. They’re nothing but pathetically-rendered archetypes in search of an original personality trait. What passes for character interaction in the eyes of the Trost brothers is to have everyone stand around acting tough and spitting out lines of dialogue that each consist of a noun, a verb, and some variation on the words “fuck,” “bitch,” “ass,” “nigga,” “dawg,” and “shit.” The most interesting thing about JTRO is that he wears an eyepatch for no discernible reason, but then I found out that Trost wears the patch in real life. So much for that. At times I felt like I was watching the longest episode of Yo Momma in history. One could overlook or even begrudgingly accept these flaws if the movie wasn’t completely sunk by its pacing. The FP has a running time of 82 minutes, but as I was watching it it felt longer than Berlin Alexanderplatz.
The story is poorly structured and alternates between dull training montages, botched attempts at establishing a romantic relationship between JTRO and Stacy, and lame alpha male posturing. It gets tiresome after the first twenty minutes and there’s still an hour left to go. Towards the end when JTRO and L Dubba E meet for their Beat Beat showdown the Trosts finally start to realize their movie’s potential, so naturally they can’t even maintain what little dynamism they were able to conjure at the last minute and surrender their better storytelling instincts to a pointless shoot-out, car chase, and fist fight. There is nothing I despise seeing in a movie more than wasted potential.
The only way I can see The FP being accepted by audiences if there’s a keg of beer at every screening. It’s a turgid, lifeless affair that squanders an interesting premise and wastes your precious time in the process.
The first ten minutes of the film are now online, and you can watch it here below.
THE FP opens March 16 in select cities and is available to create your own screening nationwide through Tugg at tugg.com/thefp.