The credo of 248 leader JTRO (Jason Trost, who co-wrote and co-directed with his brother, Brandon) is “We roll together, we die together.” That’s tested when JTRO vows never to play again after BTRO dies during a rather heated Beat-off (go ahead, snicker) against 245 head L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy), and disappears.
A year later, his bud DC (Art Hsu, Crank: High Voltage) comes looking for him with bad news: The 245 has taken over the FP, including the liquor mart, and no one drinks until L Dubba E says so. DC lays it all out: “And now with no drunks, there ain’t no bums. And with no bums, there ain’t no motherfuckers to feed the ducks at the park. What’s a fuckin’ town with no ducks, JTRO? It’s nothin’! It ain’t nothin’! How’s a nigga supposed to sort his shit out without no ducks?”
How, indeed. Thus, JTRO returns to help his fellow 248ers bring liquor back from the underground — literally, through the Civil War underground railroad. (Harriet Tubman would be proud, right? Right?) Complete with training sequences and motivational acronyms — “Never Ignorant and Gettin’ Goals Accomplished” — The FP chronicles JTRO’s climb back to the top, to reclaim his rightful spot as king of the Beat-off.
I was really, really hesitant to even try The FP, despite being released by Drafthouse Cinema, the distribution arm of the coolest movie theater in America, Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. The trailer looked like a one-joke concept, perhaps best suited as a sketch or … well, a fake trailer.
There’s some validity to that, because The FP started as a short film, all of 13 minutes five years ago (yet not among the Blu-ray extras, strangely). And this feature version, at 69 minutes more, does start to lag toward an inevitable end.
But here’s the thing: The Trost brothers and their compadres are so invested in pulling off their fully realized world that the damn thing works. Watch with the subtitles turned on, because the movie’s gang language — “gangluage”? — is so rich, comprehensive and dedicated, it’s quite something to behold.
Writing this committed deserves more attention than your mere ears may be willing to give it; besides, you’re apt to miss too many good jokes otherwise. (Remember the acclimation required by the spoken likes of Trainspotting or The Full Monty? Same principle.)
Kudos to Team Trost for making The FP — not only their way, but for making it so well that its overlook look and feel belies its tiny budget. Projects this small often come off as amateur-hour acts, but there’s too much talent and conviction on both sides of the camera to stay at such a stooped level. No wonder Drafthouse anted up. —Rod Lott