Thursday, 12 January 2012

Fast Food Nation film review in The Daily Yomiuri on 22nd February 2008

Dark secrets lurk between the buns

Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Fast Food Nation
3.5 stars out of five
Dir: Richard Linklater
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Patricia Arquette, Avril Lavigne, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis

"There's s--- in our burgers." Early on in Fast Food Nation, the words of Mickey's hamburger restaurant chain marketing executive Don Henderson's boss leave him in no doubt why he is being sent to check on the firm's meat supplier.

Director Richard Linklater's film, a dramatization of author Eric Schlosser's 2001 expose of the fast-food industry, is a fine ensemble piece with solid performances by the main cast and some fascinating big-name cameo roles.

The story mainly takes place in the Colorado town of Cody, where all the cows that supply the meat for Mickey's "Big One" burgers are reared before ending up at the UMP
meatpacking factory.

Henderson, played by Greg Kinnear, is introduced to the dark side of his industry and discovers that there's more to his company's flagship product than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, the film also addresses the issues of the workers in the factory, almost all of whom are illegal aliens from Mexico, and their plight is related with compassion and tenderness.

Other Cody residents are represented in the form of the old ranchers, whose businesses have been consumed by the massive meatpacking company, and local high school students, especially those who work in the local branch of Mickey's.

Henderson meets one of those old ranchers, and Kris Kristofferson is perfectly cast as the hard-bitten, cynical Rudy Martin, whose insights into the meatpacking industry are an eye-opener for the marketing man.

The scenes with the students add another dimension, with the call for direct action by some activists at an environmental meeting met with a reminder of how wide-ranging the scope of the Patriot Act in the United States could be. Ultimately, their efforts to make a difference come to nothing, and one of them is left with another dilemma concerning animals that are bred purely to supply the fast food industry.

The final 10 minutes of the film contain some of the most powerful images you are likely to see on a movie screen this year, especially if you have never visited or worked in the killing bay of a slaughterhouse.

Whether the movie will alter people's eating habits is questionable. Immediately after watching the film I may not have been in the mood for a hamburger, but opted for a salad sub, albeit from another fast-food restaurant chain.

More importantly, the film also addresses globalization, animal rights, environmental contamination and dangerous workplaces. If awareness of these issues is raised in cinema audiences, the film will have been a resounding success.

The movie, in English and Spanish, is currently playing.
(Feb. 22, 2008)

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