Rated R, 122 min. Directed by Brandon Trost, Jason Trost. Starring Jason Trost, Lee Valmassy, Art Hsu, Sean Whalen, Caitlyn Folley, Nick Principe, Brandon Barrera, James DeBello, Bryan Goddard, Rachel Robinson, Michael Sandow, Dash Mihok, James Remar.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 16, 2012
The latest film to be picked up for distribution by Austin's (Alamo) Drafthouse Films is every bit as deranged, manic, and hilarious as its first acquisition, Chris Morris' Four Lions, but in a completely different way. It's patently an Alamo film by nature of its storyline and a consistently over-the-top level of absurdity that rarely sputters, but how it will play in the real world outside of Austin is anyone's guess. That said, it's going to do mega box office in Japan at the very least, and probably revive the sacred art of Dance Dance Revolution wherever it plays.
Opening expository narration (from The Warriors' James Remar, no less) cues us into this story of two futuristic clans fighting for "dominance over the small town of Frazier Park." On one side are the 248s, led by the eyepatch-sporting JTRO (Trost); on the other, the 245s, fronted by villainous L Dubba E (Valmassy) – you can tell he's villainous by his Mohawk! The film's central joke, around which hundreds of other smaller gags orbit like space junk around the Earth, is that these two gangs battle not with knives or guns – shit like that is so now – but via a competitive video game dubbed Beat-Beat Revolution. That's right, mofo (in the outrageous, bizzarro parlance of the film), it's a dance-off to the death. Fans of anything 1980s will be in heaven, but if you're an Austinite who favors the Alamo's Weird Wednesdays over the more Eighties-centric Terror Tuesdays, the continual outbursts of rapid-fire, wannabe wigga street slang as well as the headbands, cut-off denim jackets, and pretty much every other Eighties movie trope both high and small could lead to an in-theatre aneurysm. It's frankly totally insane, but in an impressively cohesive way. The gutter-mouthed, faux hip-hoppery of the whole thing is a feat in and of itself, replicating a post-apocalyptic vision of the future as viewed through the cracked lens of the 1980s and then refiltered through a 21st century geek sensibility. It's 1990: The Bronx Warriors meets West Side Story in hell.
Plotwise, it's a parodic mishmash of dance-off movies, The Warriors, and the Rocky franchise, among many other cinematic touchstones. When JTRO's brother, a hotshot dancer, is killed in a "beat-off," he naturally enough pulls up stakes and heads off to be a lumberjack. He's called back to the fold again, naturally enough, by Asian brother KCDC (Hsu) for one last explosion of ultrasilly cage-match dancing while romantic interest Stacy (Folley) awaits the outcome.
Quite likely the most original dance film you'll see this year, The FP is awash in silliness that probably took ages to script, but the film's goofy heart and soul (yes, it has one) is what sticks with you in the end and makes this crazed film into a potential cult-movie masterpiece.