A man who lost his family in the September 11 attack on New York City runs into his old college roommate. Rekindling the friendship is the one thing that appears able to help the man recover from his grief.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Don Anderson is the Mickey's food restaurant chain's Marketing Director. He is the inventor of the "Big One" the hamburger best seller of Mickey's. An independent research reports the presence of cow's feces in the Big One. So Don is sent to Cody, Colorado, to verify if the slaughterhouse, main supplier of Mickey's, is efficient as it appears and the production process is regular. During his investigations he discovers the horrible truth behind a simple hamburger; the reality is not like we think it is. Don discovers what the mass production system involves, from the temp workers like Amber, to the exploitation of Mexican irregular immigrants. It is not only the meat that is crushed in the mincing machine, but all our society. Written by
A wasted opportunity: Fast Food Nation is about as satisfying as a happy meal.
Apparently, ever since Stephen Gaghan bored everyone senseless with his intertwining storytelling techniques for Syriana (2005), Richard Linklater's latest project, a political satire-drama about the fast food industry and its various potholes, adopts the same strategy to the same sort of effect in Fast Food Nation. Among the protagonists includes Greg Kinnear as Don Henderson, the newly acquired vice-president of fast food mogul "Mickey's". His job requires him to market a new type of burger "The Big One" to the public. Elsewhere we get to meet a family of Mexicans, among them Wilmer Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno, who venture into America illegally via the nasty, corrupt factory worker Mike (Cannavale), in order to fill his disgusting work stations. Mickey's employee Amber (Johnson) who grows tiresome of flipping burgers and pervy bosses eventually decides to gather a revolt against the beef-slaughtering industry.
On paper this could be the most cinematically violent satire one could hope for on the big screen. The fast food nation, for better or worse, is such an easy subject to tackle as the behemoth of an industry's only true worth is to fatten the western world into a huge wave of immovable mammoths. The operation of it is even worse, as KFC's documented treatment of its fowl is appalling, as is McDonald's lack of nutritional awareness. So much bag to swing at, surely an accomplished director such as Richard Linklater couldn't possibly avoid hitting something? Suffice to say Fast Food Nation is absolutely punch-less. It relays common truths to support its depiction, which completely washed over me. There is artificial flavourings in these foods? Apparently immigrants are put to work illegally and unsafe in factories, you say? No kidding. Tell me something new. Shock me. The devouring and slaughter of a cow isn't a plea to boycott fast food it is vegetarian propaganda. Yes it is nasty viewing, but no more so than the limb-removal in Saw (2004) or the teeth extraction in Park Chan Wook's Oldboy (2003). I knew animals die in the process of food making it is common knowledge. Vegetarian propaganda belongs in a film like Madagascar (2005) or Finding Nemo (2003) where children ponder the humane nature of eating meat, whilst realising that nature itself is fairly ruthless when it comes to hunger. The fact that the biggest indignation proposed unto the industry by this film is of the amount of animal feces going "undetected" in their products is certainly disconcerting, but underlines the weakness to truly devour this subject. It is edited, directed and written in such a pedestrian manner, that not only is there a lack of insight, there is none of the brio or genuine intrigue that Morgan Spurlock's superbly insightful, and utterly entertaining documentary Super Size Me (2004) garnered. Spurlock uncovered a plethora of grotesque truths about fast food that not only made you think about that kind of diet, but also offered a compelling cinematic experience.
It is after witnessing a film as disappointing as Fast Food Nation, that one appreciates a work like Thank You For Smoking (2006) all the more. Linklater has made a movie not just lacking punch, but spark too. Jason Reitman's film about tobacco lobbyists was a movie with similarly hackneyed message: think for yourself. It preached to its own choir much in the same vein is Linklater is doing here; only with verve, and a sense of humour, that more than made it worth the emission. Fast Food Nation is desperately lacking a humorous edge. There is none of that biting satire from Wag The Dog (1997), none of the cutthroat cynicism of Wall Street (1987) or the fluidity in Linklater's previous release this year A Scanner Darkly (2006). It even lacks the intelligence of Syriana (2005), which was not a particularly accomplished film. Instead what we have is an admittedly well-intentioned film, which lacks the wit, insight and storytelling to make this a worthwhile experience.
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