Jason Trost’s The FP has had an awkward trajectory as a franchise. The first installment 2011’s The FP immediately attained cult status with its hyper masculine, adolescent story of a bunch of white dudes in the rural Frazier Park, hence the name “The FP”, that look like 80s back up dancers and talk like what white kids in the country believe inner city gangsters talk. The hook here is different factions settle their disagreements between area codes using a DDR knock off called Beat Beat Revelation, which somehow has the ability to kill someone if they lose a “Beat Off”.
The film followed JTRO, played by writer/director Trost, who’s essentially doing the hero’s journey here, trying to get vengeance for his Beat Beat master, while winning the heart of a girl he loves in the process. That first film was culled from cheesy 80s action, video games and pop culture, and was funnier than it had any right to be since thanks to the bizarre dialog and larger than life characters. One of the film’s trademarks that hasn’t aged quite as well however is the use of the n-word, which in the film is used by rural white kids to amplify their ignorance.
I think while you can just see The FP at its most superficial as a low brow comedy with some toilet humor and extreme language thrown in for good measure. At its most high brow it’s attempting to comment on white youth culture and poking fun at the cultural appropriation of black culture in rural areas where prejudice and racism are the most prevalent, it’s something growing up in a rural area myself that always puzzled me. It’s a weird dichotomy that the film uses to its benefit to show the ignorance of everyone, including JTRO. This mixed with a look cribbed from the Cannon Films aesthetic is what locked the film into its cult status and made it a favorite of mine.
The first film was released by Drafthouse Films and it was nearly 8 years before a proper sequel followed with — 2018’s FP2: Beats of Rage. It was a film that was crowdfunded after a frustrating time spent trying to take the franchise to the next level by Trost and that was painfully apparent from the writer/director/star who is very active on social media. The problem with FP2 is that a lot had changed in the almost decade it took to come out, and the humor that was the hallmark of that first film had not aged well. As for the characters, it felt like Trost wasn’t sure where to take them and what came out was something that felt like a defanged version of the previous film.
For me FP2 failed to recapture the magic of the original and while some would have simply walked away, JTRO however returned with the FP3: Escape from Bako in 2021.
FP3 had Trost nearly rebooting the series and completely untethering it from reality and fully embracing its video game influences and aesthetic. In a move that is aligned with the multibillion dollar franchise, Frazier Park has now been retconned into a post-post-apocalyptic world and shot almost completely against green screen just like an MCU film. To tone down the misogyny we are introduced to JTRO’s fiercely independent spunky daughter Chai-TRO (Lib Campbell) and his sorceress wife CHAI-T (Tallay Wickham). This new family dynamic allowed Trost’s hero to embrace the femininity of his new co-stars without really diminishing his character’s action hero machismo.
It was a risky move but that coupled with bringing back fan favorite L DUBBA E (Lee Valmassy) reinvigorated the series with a hard reset that re-invested me after the disappointment of FP2.
FP- 4EVZ hits VOD today and feels like the second half of the script of FP3, which could be the case given both films have a roughly 70 minute runtime. The film continues to put the pedal to the metal on the weirdness as Chai-TRO who can beat beat through time(?) is kidnapped when it’s revealed JTRO and by relation Chai-TRO are descended from Ducks?!? According to a prophecy she is the key to saving The FP and because of that is kidnapped by a duck masked villain. The mythology here is convoluted, surreal and just ridiculous enough to work within this universe. How else could you explain a film where someone can use a beat beat revelation machine to pilot a spaceship or open a time portal?
The weirder these films seemed to get, the more I was in for it. JTRO even has a meta moment where he mentions how these films used to be about a bunch of guys in a trailer park. It’s a lot like the Fast and Furious franchise, you either embrace the weird get on board, or get the hell out of the way. And like that franchise, surprisingly added to the mix is heart and FAMILY thanks to the ladies of the FP. It was my biggest surprise of FP3 and Lib Campbell just lit up the screen with her bright eyed performance.
While FP4 works, it definitely works better with a back to back viewing of FP3, since both films share so much DNA and complement each other to the point it’s nearly impossible to separate them. Trost continues to deliver a reluctance and bravado on screen as JTRO who in FP4 deals out a more nuanced hero as he struggles to come to terms with not only getting old, but dealing with marriage, fatherhood and a few shocking revelations to boot. Unlike the last film, this one is more focused on JTRO and brings back some familiar faces this time around to give an almost end of the series vibe. It’s really hard to say anything about the script, except that Trost is just going for broke every time he forces the insanity up another level.
Of course just like a Marvel film we are treated to a stinger that lets us know there’s more in store at The FP. While most would have probably given up, Trost surprisingly has found a new footing with his series going bigger and weirder than ever while also somehow imbuing it with a heart. While the film still has that adolescent humor of the original, Trost has found other ways to still make us laugh without having to go back to the well or even blame it on “Woke” culture, which might be an easy out. FP- 4EVZ is hard to rate on its own since it owes so much to the film before it for its narrative shorthand, and feels more like a companion than a stand alone.
But if you liked 3 you no doubt enjoy 4, and I am very curious to see where Trost takes us next.