An homage wrapped in a spoof wrapped in a cliche, goofy low-budget punk-vs.-punk opus “The FP” strains as the Trost brothers try to wring a feature out of their like-titled short film, in which rival gangs compete for turf by out-dancing one another in Beat-Beat Revolution videogame showdowns. This unabashedly derivative, vaguely post-apocalyptic riff on well-worn ’80s-movie tropes plays its boilerplate premise with endearing earnestness, but runs thin in no time. Such a film surely would have gone straight to DVD had it not been for Drafthouse Films, which is seizing on “The FP’s” cheesy cult potential in limited rollout.
Unlike most entries in the end-of-days genre, “The FP” takes place in neither a barren desert wasteland nor the burnt-out shell of a once-mighty metropolis, but rather the Trost brothers’ tiny hometown of Frazier Park, Calif., a sleepy, picturesque string of bait shops and trailer parks located 90 minutes north of Los Angeles. It’s the kind of backward community residents dream of escaping, rather than hoping to run one day, which constitutes recurring joke No. 1: No self-respecting gang leader would fight for control of the FP, and yet, the film finds two competing factions locked in a deadly civil war.
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On one side stands a pair of blue-suited siblings: JTRO (co-director Jason Trost), who suggests a young Snake Plissken with his silky mullet and eyepatch, and big brother BTRO (Brandon Barrera), the area’s reigning dance champ. Their scenery-chewing rivals, led by mohawked tough guy L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy), look like rejects from “The Warriors” in their yellow jumpsuits and mismatched bling. Both parties speak in a curious blend of text-message shorthand and Ebonics, making for some of the most inane dialogue in recent memory, much of which comes spewing from the mouth of grating Asian emcee KCDC (Art Hsu).
These hoods are gnarly, testosterone-choked bullies, anti-hipsters preposterously out of sync with relevant fashion and fads — an observation that sets up the film’s running joke No. 2: Only in Frazier Park would videogame death-matches make sense as the vehicle for settling scores.
The problem with this premise is that, in contrast with martial-arts or street-dance competition pics, the skill involved in mastering Beat-Beat Revolution (a DDR-style four-panel dance platform game made popular in the late ’90s) isn’t readily apparent. Come showtime, these guys are just going through the motions. In the opening cage match, it’s more embarrassing than poignant when BTRO dances so hard he collapses and dies on the pedestal, leaving JTRO to avenge his title.
From that point, the script proceeds on autopilot as it covers the ground of countless B-movies, serving up contrived setbacks and obligatory training montages. Every so often, the “bros” — a term well suited to the Trosts’ tactless frat-boy attitude — throw in an outrageous detail to distinguish themselves, as when Stacy digs through the sand at the local playground hoping to find a used tampon. Evidently, they don’t think much of the ladies, with female characters given little more to do than look slutty and service the male dance champs (as in the film’s unfortunate final shot).
“The FP” falls into that murky zone of films that aspire to be awful, and the best that can be said is that the Trosts over-deliver in trying to hit that goal. Doubling as director of photography, co-helmer Brandon Trost (now lensing “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”) brings a slick look to the shoestring proceedings, which helps disguise the spindly production values, while making the story itself feel all the more meager.