Life moves pretty fast these days. Sequels get announced before the first movie comes out, Shia LaBeouf’s already doing nude scenes and I hear some people even kiss on the first date now. One of the most noticeable aspects of this new run-and-gun lifestyle, from a moviegoer’s perspective anyway, is the strange notion that movies can be cult hits before they even come out. Film critics can take some of the blame for that, and god knows that marketing departments are constantly trying to make it happen on their own. Sometimes it works out – oh, hello Attack the Block – and sometimes it backfires – oh, goodbyeSnakes on a Plane – but there’s certainly an impression that some films, like the post-apocalyptic Dance Dance Revolution movie The FP, are sacrosanct before they even hit my Blu-ray player. Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t just go with the flow with this new trend, especially since The FP isn’t very good.
I will let you pummel me with garbage now. It’s okay. Take your time.
Now that you’ve had your jollies, let me explain why I couldn’t have mine. I really wanted to like The FP. The concept alone makes me laugh. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe if I’d never heard the idea for the film and discovered The FP without a hint of buildup, I’d be kinder to this rather unimpressive film that doesn’t make the most of its concept and falls prey to wholly unnecessary sexist undertones. Then again… maybe not.
The FP stars co-writer/co-director Jason Trost as “JTRO,” a gang member in what could be a post-apocalyptic America or could simply be a very weird slum. In this oddball reality, rival gangs compete for power through a video game called Beat Beat Revelation, in which the loser sometimes dies. After JTRO’s brother falls victim to the beat, JTRO leaves Frazier Park (the “FP”) behind. A year later, he’s recruited to save the community from an evil gang leader who runs the only liquor store in town, and for some reason withholds booze from his most loyal customers, alcoholics, who have turned to hard drugs instead of just making their own in a still. (It’s not hard.) Along the way he meets up with an old flame played by Caitlyn Folley, and perfects his skills in one training montage after another.
It never feels like we learn any more about the characters, their world or even the plot than we do from the trailer. How did Beat Beat Revelation become a their weapon of choice? How does it kill you, anyway? JTRO’s brother simply collapses on the ground, dead as a doornail. If the machine isn’t actually involved in his death (which I suspect to be the case, since it doesn’t kill anyone else throughout the film), then what happened? Did he just have high cholesterol? Should JTRO’s saga of revenge have been waged against villainous fast food companies instead? And why the hell is every woman in this movie, including the hero’s love interest, a shallow ditz whose only function in the story is to dole out blowjobs?
Yes, The FP might very well be this year’s Bellflower: the indie darling that few seemed to take to task for treating women as vile things to be humiliated by men for their petty amusement. What’s up with that, The FP? Would it have killed you to take your fundamentally ridiculous conceit and have some good-natured fun with it? Why’d you have to get all creepy on my ass? The action-packed climax features a female character who (I assume) we’re supposed to like being orally raped, and it’s treated as a joke. The romantic subplot concludes with the hero saving the girl and getting a blowjob of his own, as if that’s all he was after in the first place. They have no real future together: he’s boring and she has no ambition beyond becoming a stripper so she can pay for her own booze.
What The FP lacks, that its very concept promises, is a light heart. There’s no real pleasure to be taken in the events that unfold except as mere ideas. The idea of Dance Dance Revolution controlling the destiny of a post-apocalyptic future is funny, but in practice it’s confusing and a surprisingly small part of the storyline. The idea of building a 1980s sports movie around an inherently silly pastime is rife with possibility, but the film only embraces the most superficial aspects of the genre. The heart, the soul and the melodrama are all missing. It’s a spectacular waste of a great idea; it's like inventing the artificial heart and then powering it with a hamster wheel.
But The FP has its fans, who I guess are entranced by the mere concept and willing to overlook the rampant misogyny. For them, the Blu-ray release offers a treasure trove of bonus material (commentary track, behind the scenes features, a 16-page booklet), and a mostly strong transfer that captures the film’s intensely digital aesthetic. For the rest of us, just close your eyes and imagine a post-apocalyptic Dance Dance Revolution movie. Whatever you come up with is better than this.