On paper, the Trost Brothers' dystopian comedy The FP has all the trappings of an instant cult classic: a loving sendup of '70s and '80s movies complete with absurdly costumed gang warriors, heaps of self-aware slang, training montages, and low-stakes battles treated as life-or-death situations. As an added bonus, those battles are played out with deadly severity over the dance pad video game Dance Dance Revolution. But, while there's a lot of heart that shines through this low-budget flick, the center of its crude humor can't quite hold.
If you've seen the first 12 minutes of The FP, you know how the movie begins. BTRO (Brandon Barrera) and his younger brother JTRO (Jason Trost) are a Beat-Beat Revelation team representing the 248, a gang from the north side of Frazier Park (the titular FP), until one fateful night when the pair takes on L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) and the 245 crew, representing the FP's south side while sporting confederate stars and bars. The brothers TRO make a good showing right up until BTRO suffers a Beat-Beat execution thanks to L-Dub's fleeter feet.
From there, we get a Beat-Beat ablution, as JTRO washes his hands of the FP's gang war, up until KCDC (Art Hsu) drags JTRO back home so he can train to defeat L-Dub and win his Beat-Beat retribution. (That's the last one, I swear.)
I spent a good deal of the first half hour of The FP wondering exactly how society had gotten to the point where moon boots are the height of fashion and everyone speaks in hip-hop slang as interpreted by suburban white kids. Was there some sort of information apocalypse where our society had to be completely reconstructed from '80s movies? Is The FP set in an alternate universe in which our infrastructure collapsed before the Clinton administration? The FP offers no answers, but I kept thinking back to the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic where the only people who survive the apocalypse are folks at frat parties.
Yes, The FP is a dumb movie, but there's a certain cleverness to its idiocy. Mocking the low stakes that so many '80s movies protagonists fight for, The FP concocts a hilariously convoluted explanation the 245-248 war. It's a beautifully constructed joke, and Hsu sells it with maniacal earnestness so that when it hit its exquisitely pointless punchline, the entire theater erupted in laughter. Some of these jokes seem to be born out of low-budget necessity, and that means there are some wonderful surprises lurking in the corners. Even though The FP has some hideous problems (more on that later), I'll be rewatching it just to catch more of those jokes.
The movie is, on its surface, a tribute to the insanity of films like Mad Max and The Warriors, but it's also a somewhat mocking love letter to Frazier Park, the rural southern California town the Trosts called home. There are languid shots of the main road that runs through town, and even the most hardened dancing gangster lives in a clean, middle class home. The post-apocalyptic wasteland effect is achieved by filling barns and trailer parks with Christmas lights and carefully overdressed extras (with costumes designed by the third Trost sibling, Sarah). Combined with the film's cinematography and audio mixing, it gives the charming impression that The FP has simultaneously high and low production values.