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22 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

This is how a Happy Meal gets made.

Author: s-lott from New Zealand
28 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although I am no great fan of Linklater - Before Sunset bored me, and as I result I have never sought out his other work - the shorts and the buzz about this film convinced me that it was worth a look. I was expecting a wry, but probably informative look at the fast-food industry. What was on screen was something quite different indeed. A largely excellent cast filled a sprawling set of interconnected stories revolving around a meat factory in small-town Colorado. The main threads are pretty bleak ones - illegal Mexican immigrants see their American dreams dissolve into terrible jobs, poor housing and drug addiction; a marketing manager for an American fast-food corporation realises that his company is knowingly selling contaminated food, but resigns himself to going along with the deception in order to keep his job. The stand-out moments for me were two set-piece dialogues between Kinnear's manager and Kristofferson's rancher and Willis' meat buyer. The former's comments about the 'machine running America' pretty much summarise the tone of the movie, and Willis' diatribe against the incessant need for guaranteed safety was a series of perfectly sensible home truths used by his character to defend the indefensible. As well as predictably portraying the fast-food/mechanised farming industry as a ruthless monster, the film also effectively satirises the 'eco-warrior' responses to it, first with a well observed college student debate on how to fight the industry ("They are the meanest company in the country, and you're going to write a letter?!") and then with an abortive attempt to free cattle waiting for slaughter, which refuse to embrace the 'liberation' available to them.

The film does have its weaknesses. The sexually predatory meat factory supervisor was a one-dimensional and unconvincing character, and for a company so demonised, the health care provisions to its illegal immigrant workers seemed pretty decent, and the horrors of the 'kill floor' as finally visualised seemed nowhere near as bad as their descriptions. The final weakness is the general sense of defeat in the face of the corporate machine. There is a simple route that each of us can take to undo even the largest, meanest corporation: stop buying their product.

Overall, a thoughtful and thought-provoking film. Linklater's elliptical style might not be for everyone, but the reflections on the human cost of big business should be.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Fast Food Nation challenges us to question our lives

Author: alan-wright-2 from United States
3 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Early in the movie, we learn that there is fecal matter in the burgers. The poop in the burgers symbolizes the ethical compromises that the current economic system requires of anyone hoping to succeed. As Harry (Bruce Willis) observes, "Everyone must eat a little sh*t in life." In other words, find ways to adjust your values, and you will get along OK.

The three rebel characters – Rudy (Kris Kristofferson), the radical student Paco (Lou Taylor Pucci), and Amber's uncle – each challenge Harry's assertion by choosing to live their lives outside the system. None of them drives a shiny new car (like the Chevy truck -- Raul's symbol of success), nor are they likely ever to have prestigious high paying jobs. Yet, they hold onto their integrity by resisting, by refusing to "eat sh*t".

The movie follows the development of three main characters – Mickie's VP for marketing Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), Amber (Ashley Johnson), and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno). We meet each of these characters as they struggle to make it within the system. They find themselves each situated on different rungs of the systemic ladder of "success" and the movie tracks their efforts to move up to the next rung. Don is already a "success". He has a wife, two sons, and a comfortable, well paid white collar position of a major US corporation. Yet he discovers that staying on the ladder of success is not as easy or straightforward as one might imagine. He has only slightly more job security than the Mexicans. If he wants to continue on the ladder, he will need to "eat sh*t" just like everyone else. The alternative – ratting out the corruption in the system – spells almost certain economic disaster for him and his family.

The Mexican main character is, in fact a family. The Mexicans – Sylvia, her younger sister Coco (Ana Claudia Talancón), and Sylvia's partner Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) arrive in Texas full of hope. Unfortunately for them, their dreams of a better life were made more of marketing than of reality. They imagined that they were among the lucky ones who succeeded in sneaking across the border to a better life. They gradually realize that they have been lured into a deadly trap, kidnapped really. The trap is destined to extract from them their life force. These three characters are tempted by the promise of quick and easy money ($80 in one day!). Over time however, they are seduced, drugged, screwed, and broken – physically as well as spiritually. The corporation "cares deeply for the family" as long as it serves the corporate mission to maximize profits. As soon as any one of them becomes a liability, that person is spit out to fend for themselves or to die. Sylvia is the first to realize that something is wrong. She chooses to defend herself by seeking a lower paying but less humiliating form of employment. Cleaning hotel rooms, she is able to remain in relationship with another human being, maintain her sense of humor, and with it her humanity. Little sister Coco gets seduced by false promises and is used up, addicted to car payments as much as to crack. Raul risks his life to save his friend and gets his reward -- broken ribs, a false drug charge, and a pink slip (unemployment).

At the end of the movie Sylvia and Don are in identical situations. They realize to their horror, that their souls have been kidnapped, that they are slaves to a mindless system of profit making which doesn't care about them in the least. They are devastated by the thought that they may have to "eat sh*t" for the rest of their lives and there seems nothing they can do about it.

Amber, the high school student, dreams of becoming an astronaut. She is the only main characters who defies conventional wisdom, turning her back on the system. She looks at her mother's pathetic conformist life, listens to her rebel uncle, and decides to embrace an uncertain economic future by quitting her job over the prospect of a lifetime of unreality. Amber is an "everyman" character, an average student at an average high school, working at one of the nation's millions of minimum wage "entry level" positions. She is a cog in the corporate machinery, starting her life at the bottom, but with "great potential" according to her boss (Esai Morales). Gradually, it dawns on Amber that something is not right. She doesn't yet know what is wrong, but she decides to join a group of like minded young people who begin by just saying "No!" They choose the path of integrity, listening to their inner voice. While their initial attempt at direct action – freeing the slave cattle – appears ludicrous, they are, at least, doing something. They learn from their efforts, and refuse to give up. Meanwhile, Amber is reminded of the ludicrous behavior of Nelson Mandela, founder of the African National Congress, who spent more than 20 years of his life in prison rather than to bend to apartheid. In the end, the power of his example broke the back of apartheid and made Mandela president of South Africa. Rather than "hope for change" Mandela refused to eat the "sh*t" that South Africa required of every black person. Amber, like Mandela, doesn't know where her protests will lead, but she opts for idealism over compromise, preferring rebellion over obedience.

In the end it is the single-minded pursuit of corporate profits which requires that the line move ever faster. The speed of the line inevitably leads to mistakes (unwanted substances in the ground beef, injuries, inhumane relationships). Perpetual growth in the corporate bottom line requires that every day, some new compromise be made, some value sacrificed, some life lost. This important film challenges viewers to ask themselves if they are swallowing humiliation for the sake of false security.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

a kind of head on collision of message and character, with the former winning over the latter

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
19 November 2006

There's a tendency in films of this nature, of the Fast Food Nation kind, where you already know going into it what the message is. It's not quite exactly as immediately black and white as it might seem (at first), but then after a while it becomes much more clear. While filmmaker Richard Linklater doesn't make very simple statements like 'fast food will make you fat', he does try to push the message that the sort of machinery of corporation is similar to that of the assembly line, is what is crippling to those entwined in the circle of cheap product made from dead meat. Which is fine; I'm not one of those that think precisely along the lines of Bertolucci, who was quoted as saying that he leaves messages for the post office and not for film. However, I do expect that if a filmmaker wants to put forward the message- and boy does Fast Food Nation do that more than anything- to make the characters &/or story lines interesting in the dramatic framework. He achieves this, but only up to a point. Narrative focus and dramatic drive only come through much more effectively within the last 45 minutes, while the first half seems startlingly dull, or at the least meandering.

That being said, I did find elements here and there throughout the weaker section of the film interesting. There's even a spellbinding aerial shot of the seemingly unending field of cattle, waiting for the slaughter. But for the most part early on we're treated to the sort of set-up of the main story lines: a group of Mexican illegals (one of them, Sylvia, played well by Catalina Moreno) get picked up by a guy in a van, and taken to a 'Mart' in town, and go to find work. Most of the illegals find it at a meat-packing/grinding/whatever plant, where what is seen by a quasi executive type, Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), is not seeing everything he thinks he is when shown around the plant. He meets with a couple of people, one environmentally conscious and protective of his land from corporations (Kris Kristofferson), and another who is cynical and not too optimistic (Bruce Willis, who has one of the best scenes in the film albeit with a speech attached). Meanwhile, as he goes into a Mickey's (ho-ho) to get a 'Big One' burger from Amber (Ashley Johnson), Linklater and co-writer Eric Schlosser also follow her tale of nothingness of the small-town teenage girl.

All of these stories interconnect at times, or are left to themselves. While one is actually intriguing and ultimately very sad, which is the Mexican immigrants tale (that sense of tragic exploitation going on that ends up finding a place in the 'Nation' sense of the word), the other two either spurt to a halt after a while, or just kind of go on aimlessly until the last few scenes. The former of those with Kinnear doesn't give him that much to do aside from listening to people talk, and on the phone talking to his family. In a way he could've had his own film as a character, like with Wally Wiggins in Waking Life, but on its own Linklater leaves him be after the first hour, and then coming to a wrap-around in a predictably dour manner in the end credits. Amber's story, on the other hand, is sort of the opposite- she is just a small-town girl living in a lonely world (as the song goes), and sometimes listening to idiotic plots to rob the Mickey's by his co-workers, while here and there figuring out the future for herself.

What's both fascinating and frustrating about the film though could be seen sort of from Amber's storyline, where you see scenes that are convincing both in characters talking like real people (ala Ethan Hawke's moments), but also having not as much to do with the real 'message' going across that one might think- that is until Amber joins up with the young Animal-rights/ecological brigade and goes to cut a fence down to let the cows out. This actually had a real pathos to it, and was even entertaining (probably against Linklater's own intentions). But it's not just the writing or how Linklater connects the stories together. Acting wise it's hit or miss- Moreno is fantastic in a role that ends her up seeing the actual slaughtering of cows (which is staggering, whatever you think about serving meat in fast food). But the huge ensemble either gets their little moments well like Willis or Hawke, or either 'phones it in' like Kristofferson or just outright sucks like Lavigne. There's even a convincing one-note turn by the sleazy, pig manager of the assembly line job (I forget his name), but he too only get to have his character do what's required in the script.

As I walked out of the theater I realized that this wasn't at all a bad film, in fact it's a a pretty decent effort at dramatizing in small-town/big-ensemble fashion what it is to have the ugliness of consumer productivity. But that I also found it to be, of the films I've seen of his so far, my least favorite of Linklater's, which goes to show how strong a work he can still deliver when when not working at full throttle. And it's a little ironic considering how much of a success I found A Scanner Darkly to be, possibly coming closest to my favorite of his, and how both films take on a specific message to the audience, but one accomplishes it by basing it around characters and a really tightly-knit storyline and style that is consistently engaging, while the other is content to hop around from malaise to shock to whatever. Grade: B

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

There's sh*t in the meat.

Author: lastliberal from United States
2 October 2007

It doesn't matter that there was a boatload of stars in this film; it is the story that counts.

When i saw the dude spit on the hamburger, I know I was in for trouble.

It is sad to see how the exec sold out and just went along to protect his livelihood when he knew there was something wrong going on.

I lived nine years next to these CAFOs - Controlled Animal Feed Operations. The flies were so bad that you could not go out at night. This was in town! When those West Texas winds whipped across the prairies in the Summer, you knew that wasn't dirt getting in your mouth. 50 pounds of p*ss and sh*t a day from each cow. Where i lived, we fed one million cows a year - 25% of the beef sold in the country. That's a lot of sh*t! The conditions in the meat packing plants were true. We had them and they did have constant accidents due to pushing the lines. It is a shame that we have people risking their lives to get these kinds of jobs because it makes their lives so much better.

Bruce Willis says to just cook it and you'll be all right. I am not so sure anymore.

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14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Terrible propaganda without a point

Author: christine-jenson from United States
16 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While we all know that the Fast Food industry has its downfalls, this movie strays away from the main point it should be trying to make. It goes on a tangent about illegal immigration which is totally irrelevant and the gruesome scenes at the end make the movie seem like vegan propaganda rather than information people should know to make wise decisions about their health. The acting was OK (except for Avril lavigne, what were they thinking!) but there was no solution and no point to the movie. The slaughter scene crossed the line. I think that killing any animal is sad and difficult to watch, but I eat meat, and respect animals for the nutrition they provide. I think the movie skewed scenes such as the slaughter to incite a strong reaction. It was a poorly made movie and a waste of my time and lunch!

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23 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Great movie- is a must to see

Author: Ana sol
16 November 2006

Famed writer/director Richard Linklater directs an A-list cast in a dramatized version of the best-selling book Fast Food Nation. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show), Catalina Moreno Sandino (Maria Full of Grace), and Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) create a complex, compelling, and entertaining movie, with rich performances and sharp dialogue. Ever wonder what goes into making a fast-food burger? Discover that, and so much more, as you are drawn into the stories of many different people who work together to create that all-American phenomenon known as the fast-food meal. See the toll it takes on everyone—humans and other animals—involved.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Cattle of Cows and People and Industry of Food

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
29 June 2008

In California, the VP of Marketing of the Mickey's Fast Food Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) is responsible for the hamburger "Big One", the number one in selling in Mickey's chain of fast food restaurants. When an independent research in the meat patties produced in Cody, Colorado, indicates the presence of cow manure, Don is sent to the facility to investigate possible irregularities in the meatpacking production plant and also the major supplier of cattle. Along his surveys, Don finds the truth about the process and how meat is contaminated. Meanwhile, a group of illegal Mexican immigrants arrive in Cody to work in the dirty jobs in the plant while a group of activists plot how to expose the terrible situation of the Mickey's industry.

"Fast Food Nation" has a promising beginning, giving an expectation of a strong message against the fast food industry and the exploitation of illegal immigrants in USA. Unfortunately in a certain moment the story becomes a shallow drama, losing the focus on the cattle of cows, people treated like cattle and the process of manufacturing industrialized meat, never going deeper in these issues. In this regard, "Super Size Me" is much more effective, showing the effects of fast food in the human body. I believe this theme would be tailored for Michael Moore, and I did not like this work of Richard Linklater. There are many pointless cameo appearances of famous actors, like for example the characters of Ethan Hawke or Bruce Willis, maybe to show how popular this director is in Hollywood. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Nação Fast Food" ("Fast Food Nation")

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

It's rare that a movie plays slower than the book!

Author: rtate-1 from New York, NY
7 December 2006

Very disappointing. It's rare that a movie plays slower than the book. While the book is biting, brutal, real -- and still journalistic!! -- the movie is slow, scripted and full of red herrings. While trying to "dramatize" characters mentioned in the book, the movie loses its focus. Case in point: the book has the fantastic McLibel case from London in which two young people take on McDonalds -- and arguably bring down the giant. What do we have in the film?: a group of student losers who can't even pull off a cattle emancipation. The book has teens robbing the very store they've been working for. The movie?: teens TALKING about robbing the very store they work for... That's called a red herring. And this very important story deserves better. Very frustrating. Read the book.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Soft on the Fast Food industry

Author: ( from United States
6 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Fast Food Nation" (2006, 116 min., U.S.), directed by Richard Linklater, creates an ensemble of fictional characters that are connected in various ways to fast food, and examines the health risks and the environmental and social consequences of the industry. From the intro and blurb, I expected to see more facts and stats. More blood and guts! The information Professor Griggs provided in her discussion prior to the film was more entertaining and informative than this movie. Here is a nice Hollywood style format story approach to a national food crisis. Do not just sit back and take it lightly. I really expected less of a narrative story line and more of an industry expose. Personally, I felt the film was 'soft' in its approach to the cattle farmers and showing the destructive practices of the fast food industry.

What we did not see is the side of the fast food industry by the people that are their main customers. There was not one soccer mom with the car full of kids rushing off to some game. There was a montage in the opening showing people sitting in the restaurant enjoying a nice leisurely meal. That scene was very unrealistic. They did not show the live of SUV's, Minivans and old beat up cars idling in the drive-through line. They did not show the people who eat there because that is all they can afford.

This film gets a passing grade, which is better than the grade my fast food dinner received prior to coming to class that night. What the film does show is the human cost of how these large corporations treat their employees. Abuse is rampant, sexual, physical, mental all take a toll on the psyche of the employee. The illegal immigrant workers endure extremely gross and unsanitary working conditions because they can make more here in the US than they can in other countries. Most everyone in the film is afraid to rock the boat, do not bit the hand that feeds you. Even the marketing guy is afraid to take a stand on this because he has a family to support. The screenplay does address the many conflicts each of the characters faced and showed progression thought the film. Over time all, the characters changed dramatically from the innocent beginning of the story. I guess placing the kill floor scene at the end of the film works if it was in the beginning we would have lost half the audience in disgust. However, really, the smell is wretched and I feel they did not show that enough. This film gets a C+.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Rent the DVD and get the special features

Author: Anthony Carre from United States
1 May 2007

I read some of the comments made about this film. It does stay at a very superficial level and leaves the audience a bit "hungry" at the end (but not hungry for meat!). I would have wished for more insights - going deeper into the subject.

I saw some comments about the poor acting and I disagree. I think that all actors had a part and is was nice to bring some stars like Bruce Willis and Ethan Hawke.

I rent the DVD and I watched the special features which contain 3 episodes of "The Meatrix", starring Moopheus. The folks who created this cartoon delivered the same message as "Fast Food Nation" in less than 15 minutes - I learned as much and it was fun! I highly recommend.

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