Fast Food Nation


Reviewed by: Keith Dudhnath

Fast Food Nation
"Despite the characterisation flaws, the ensemble cast perform well."

Fast Food Nation is a fictionalised retelling of Eric Schlosser's exposé of every stage of the fast-food industry. Its ensemble casestudies include Mexican immigrants working in a meat packing plants, a young woman working behind the counter of a fast food restaurant and an executive investigating levels of faeces in the burgers.

Drawing obvious comparisons with Traffic and Syriana, Fast Food Nation initially shows great promise. The performances of Greg Kinnear and Luis Guzman in particular keep the early action ticking along nicely. They build up enough goodwill that the audience doesn't mind the clunkiness of fictional chain being called Mickie's, and their burger being called The Big One, or worse still, when arses are covered by referring to Mickie's rivals McDonald's and Burger King.

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The film soon starts to unravel. Greg Kinnear's character may be more complex than most traditional executives in films, but all the other characters are one-dimensional. Those who work in the restaurants are either burger-spitters who fantasise about robbing the place, or goody-two-shoes who also work hard at school and do their homework a week early. Those in the meat packing plants are either impoverished people working hard for their families, bosses who take drugs and sexually harass staff or management who lie when workers are injured. I'm sure such characters can be found in real life, but in a two-hour film, it's just cherry-picking the simplest characters, keeping everything black and white, and undermining all the important points.

Despite the characterisation flaws, the ensemble cast perform well. As well as Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson is excellent as an old cattle owner. Ethan Hawke is interesting as the uncle to the talented Ashley Johnson, who works in Mickie's. Bruce Willis has a strong speech to deliver, which he does very well. (The speech, by the way, isn't as powerful as the film-makers would like to think it is, but it's still a key scene in the film).

I expected much more from Richard Linklater. Someone with his body of work behind him should have created a much more telling film. The exploitation of workers and the relentless pursuit of money at the expense of people are horrible. More horrible than the illegal drugs industry (Traffic) or shady geopolitics in pursuit of oil (Syriana)? Probably not. Weaker subject matter, but worse still a much weaker set of characters, means Fast Food Nation falls on its face. An opportunity missed.

Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2007
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Fast Food Nation packshot
Exposing the beef burger industry as bacteria friendly, with blood in the boardroom and illegals in the slaughterhouse.
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Read more Fast Food Nation reviews:

The Exile ***1/2
Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Eric Schlosser, Richard Linklater, based on the book by Eric Schlosser

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bobby Cannavale, Wilmer Valderrama, Ana Claudia Talancon, Luis Guzman, Frank Ertl, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano, Armando Hernandez, Michael Conway

Year: 2006

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/US

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