FP, The (US - BD RA)
Gabe dance dances up a revolution with this independent spoof production....
In a dystopian future, a relentless turf war rages. Two rival gangs feud for control of rural wasteland Frazier Park (‘The FP’) in the deadly arena of competitive dance-fight video game "Beat-Beat Revelation." After hometown hero BTRO is slain on the dance platform by thug leader L Dubba E, his protégé younger brother JTRO (Jason Trost) goes into isolation, vowing never to duel again. One year later, The FP is in ruins, and JTRO must find the courage to return and restore order in a ruthless battle for revenge that can only leave one man dancing. (From the official Alamo Drafthouse synopsis; I didn’t see much in the final film to prove it takes place in a dystopian future, myself)
When I first learned of The FP it was in the form of a trailer, a trailer I was under the impression was a fake-out, much like the fake trailers that accompanied Grindhouse, eventually leading to feature releases like Hobo with a Shotgun and Machete. In the context of a stand-alone fake trailer the concept of rival gangs battling via Dance Dance Revolution (here retitled Beat Beat Revelation for the sake of copyright) is pretty hilarious. I certainly giggled and was quick to share the trailer with others. Then I discovered The FP was feature-length film and I grew suspicious of the prospective joke sustaining anything longer than the supposed fake trailer. It turns out my suspicions were well founded. The film is at its best when reveling in its neon-caked production design and very basic original concept. Things fall apart when it apparently loses faith in that concept and turns to channeling the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker School of direct-lift cinematic spoof. But I don’t really like spoof movies (I think they’re lazy and creatively flat), so I’m not sure my opinion on the subject is really all that valuable, outside of maybe my insistence that this particular story type has already been spoofed to death. My bigger complaint is that I find the stylized dialogue almost unbearably obnoxious. But then I respect the fact that the film never breaks from this ‘high concept,’ white-guys-talking-black dialogue. If only co-writer/directors Brandon and Jason Trost had something more to fill the relatively short, yet still overlong runtime (the film is based on the Trost’s 2007 short-subject of the same title, which works a whole lot better) than just more 8 Mile jokes I’d respect the rest of their ultimately boring exercise in pseudo-excess.
Jason Trost, who also stars as JTRO, is most known for his other acting work on B-releases, while Brandon is a relatively sought-after cinematographer. His work includes MacGruber, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and That’s My Boy, but his most notable recent work has been on Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s Crank 2: High Voltage and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, both of which share a sort of gonzo wackiness that likely inspired The FP. From a purely technical standpoint, the brothers have their ducks in a row. The camera work, editing lighting, etcetera are all competent enough to trick an unsuspecting audience into thinking they’re watching a real movie. Perhaps even more important is the Brothers’ understanding of their budget limitations. The film does look cheap, but not as cheap as it actually was; if this was a personal friend’s pet-project, or some kind of DIY internet phenomenon I’d be very impressed. There’s just not enough going on here to get excited about the technical proficiency. At best, it feels like a good-looking Troma film shorn of the tasty exploitation elements like T&A and gore. I believe I saw two Ts and one A exactly.
As stated in the review above, Brandon Trost has worked with Neveldine/Taylor as a cinematographer. For Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, he used the RED system cameras, which are more or less the top of the line for digital HD formats. Here, the directors are apparently using smaller Canon digital cameras, which he used for the definitively cheaper Crank 2 (I don’t really understand format vs. camera stuff for digital cinematography, so I won’t pretend I do) and though still quite sharp, the overall look here is noticeably less ‘filmic.’ The photography is quite heavily augmented in terms of contrast and colour correction. Everything is bathed in either blue or gold, or both blue and gold from either side of the frame. This leads to some poppy pinks and oranges, but mostly blues, golds and greens everything up enough to washout any other colours. The hue quality is consistent, but there are issues with blocking effects, which probably has something to do with the compression of the original material (again, I don’t really know what kind of compression they were working with, but it looks similar to the effect of 720p digital photography, minus the shortcomings in detail levels). The contrast levels are cranked to total blowout levels, leaving very little room for soft gradations or even much in the way of gradation at all. It’s a flat and often unattractive look, but it’s impressive for the sheer quantity of detail on screen. The high contrast also leads to some heavy edge haloes and other sharpening effects, which play into the digital-ness of the look.
The FP comes fitted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that does a decent job masking some of the film’s more obvious monetary shortcomings. There isn’t a lot of ambience or directional work, but the overall effect is crystal clear without sounding particularly processed. The dialogue is consistently understandable (aside for the slang…) and doesn’t fluctuate too much in terms of volume levels. The soundtracks really comes to life where the Dance Dance Revolution-inspired music is concerned. The battle scenes are heavy with LFE shattering bass beats, stereo and surround wiggling synth, and even a bit of semi-natural crowd noise. A brief shoot-out and explosion offers a bit more directional support. There’s not a lot to this track overall, but it’s plenty loud where it counts.
The extras begin with a commentary track from the Trost Brothers. The writer/directors are more soft-spoken and modest than I had expected and do a pretty good job covering the basics of their careers and this particular film’s genesis and production. They’re full of behind-the-scenes nuggets about just about every cast and crew member (most of whom are personal friends they met on the sets of other films they worked on over the years), along with some surprising stories about the supposed real life inspiration found around the real FP (apparently, most of the dialogue is based on stuff overheard at various FP parties). The track runs out of steam a few times, but is generally likable, informative and even more entertaining than the film itself.
Next up is Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished: The Making of The FP, a three part behind the scenes featurette that starts with The Making of The FP (21:30, HD). Here the Trosts, along with sister Sarah, actors Caitly Folley, John Hsu and Lee Valmassy, set designer Tyler B Robinson and producer/actor Brandon Berrara discuss the production, set against footage from the film itself. This featurette is generally humourless and lacks behind-the-scenes video, but there is footage from the original short and a surprising lack of overlap with the commentary track. Costume Designing the FP: A Return to Frazier Park (8:10, HD) features Sarah Trost discussing her thrift-store fashion design for the film, complete with behind-the-scenes pictures. The making-of featurettes are wrapped up with Scoring The FP (6:10, HD), an interview with composer George Holdcroft about the film’s DDR-inspired electronic score. The best bit is where he reveals all the female vocals are his voice pitched-up. Extras are completed with The FP in The FP (10:30, HD), a journey through the real town’s ‘Fiesta Days’ and film screening with the brothers, a green band trailer and a red band trailer.
I really wanted to like The FP. I find the basic concept charming and love the family dynamic of the production process. I also love the idea of supporting super-cheap, independent movies. Unfortunately, the concept doesn’t sustain a feature-length film and much of what makes the film ‘special’ is mostly annoying and unfunny. This Blu-ray release looks and sounds about as good as it can, based on the film’s tiny budget, and the extras include enough entertaining behind the scenes information to make me feel just a little bit worse about not being able to ultimately recommend the end product.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 19th June 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Directors' Commentary, Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished: 3-Part Making of The FP, The FP in The FP, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Brandon and Jason Trost
Cast: Jason Trost, Lee Valmassy, Art Hsu, Caitlyn Folley, Nick Principe, Brandon Barrera, Sean Whalen, James Remar
Length: 83 minutes
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