Ramshackle fast food horror movie

Fast Food Nation: 113 minutes, Rated: M, website 
Director: Richard Linklater, Starring: Starring Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis

Ramshackle fast food horror moviePoor McDonald’s. First, the 2002 doco Supersize Me came along to remind people that, yes, fast food is really bad for you. This year Maccas is on the defensive all over again, with a major ad campaign inviting consumers to "Make Up Your Own Mind". And while the fast food giant denies any connection, it seems a big coincidence that 2006 also marks the release of another potent anti-fast food film.

Truth be told, Fast Food Nation is unlikely to have the implications for Maccas’ PR that Supersize Me did.

True, it’s inspired by a cult book—an insightful and shocking work of investigative journalism that caused jaws to drop upon its publication back in 2000. It was also co-written by that book’s impassioned author, Eric Schlosser, and by director Richard Linklater, a maverick, eclectic independent American filmmaker.

And to be fair, the film doesn’t pull any punches, and is both topical and powerful in its own way. Where Supersize Me approached fast food from the nutrition angle, Fast Food Nation concerns itself with the environmental, ethical and social implications of the industry as a whole.

It parallels three interrelated storylines. An executive (Kinnear) from fast food giant Mickey’s (a none-too-subtle play on McDonald’s) heads to the fictional town of Cody, Colorado to investigate the presence of cow excrement in his chain’s burgers. Meanwhile, a local Mickey’s counter girl (Ashley Johnson) joins a group of environmentalists and is drawn into their anti-Mickey’s activism.

Ramshackle fast food horror movieThe most compelling subplot, and the one Schlosser and Linklater have said lay closest to their hearts, concerns a group of Mexican migrants who are smuggled across the border to work the treacherous meatpacking plant that supplies Mickey’s with its burgers. At the plant, they are exposed to hideous working conditions, and are exploited both professionally and, in the case of the women, sexually.

This is certainly a worthy film, but overall it’s a tad too ramshackle to have much lasting impact. It strives to avoid didacticism, but as a result lacks a clear unifying thesis. Also, by fictionalising the non-fiction book, Fast Food Nation leaves itself open to dismissal in a way that Supersize Me, as a documentary, did not allow.

Be warned: the film contains a scene shot in a real-life, operational abattoir. In interviews Schlosser has said they intended this scene to underline the humiliation and degradation of the exploited migrant workers. Fair enough, although without this foreknowledge viewers could be forgiven for interpreting the showers of bovine blood as a heavy-handed attempt to shock them into vegetarianism.



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