Paul Dale, Dylan McGovern
A team of criminals take over a small diner fearing one of the patrons, a cop, has recognized them. What follows is a story of violence, hostages and murder. Sound like a great setup? Maybe a good Tarantino film? Perhaps... perhaps not. Let's dig a little deeper into "Fast Food & Cigarettes" from writers Paul Dale and Dylan McGovern. Directed by Paul Dale.
First off, let me just write this. This flick is a highly stylized production. A cross between a true crime reality show and yes, a Tarantino film as I suggested above. I also couldn't help but notice a kind of Twilight Zone-esque flare. Hard to put my finger on why exactly, but I suspect it was the reporter - who kept popping up and pushing the story forward. Considering this is a heist film of sorts, the style of this production no doubt sounds interesting... and more or less it is. However, things are not perfect and aside from not being everyone's cup of coffee, the way it's put together may get a little confusing. Confusing may not be the exact word, because it's never that you don't understand what's happening - rather it can feel a little awkward.
With that written, let me just cut to the chase - "Fast Food & Cigarettes" is a pretty decent flick. No matter what I'll write below in the technical section of this write-up, this is a film you can easily enjoy with a beer. Everyone is not going to like this, for the casual viewer used to the standard setup of a movie, I have one message. Either steer clear or open your mind to something other than the Hollywood cliche - this film is a little different. For those looking for just that, or folks who enjoy a gritty, maybe a little non linear story, this is more up your alley. Personally? I'd have no problems watching this movie again - or even purchasing a hard copy if one becomes available. That pretty much sums things up.
Technically, the very nature of this film makes everything I write very, very subjective. I'm going to steer mostly clear of the visual style, that consists of a lot of hand-held shots. Or what appear to be. You won't mistake this film for being a ten million dollar movie however, that look lends itself well to the style. Gritty and real - bringing me back to that crime reality show feeling I had when watching. The audio consists mainly of songs picked to match/create a certain mood. An obvious use of audio but in this film, more care was taken... considering there is almost no spoken dialog in the movie. Except when the reporter interjects here and there. No dialog you ask? Nope. Another creative decision by the filmmakers and another reason this one was quite interesting at times.
So what didn't I like? This film shouldn't have been this long and essentially, it wasn't. Everything comes back to the edit and "Fast Food & Cigarettes" does not feature a totally linear timeline. It bounces around a lot. Before and after the heist. Again, this brings me back to the style of the film - you'll love or hate it. What I couldn't get over was the flashbacks to the people in the diner. The hostages. Flashbacks that had no bearing at all on the actual story of the film. I'm guessing it was an attempt to add depth to these characters, but it just didn't work. As an example? Having a character, before the robbery, attempting to commit suicide over the loss of a loved one - is a powerful piece of backstory. If it is going to be used somehow within the story. Perhaps this death wish could have motivated a direct attack on the criminals holding him/them hostage? In this film? It had no meaning at all. The truth is that none of the history showcased within the film, about the hostages, moved the story forward in any real way. Should have been left out. In my opinion. If it doesn't directly relate or push a story forward... cut it.
Another thing that got to me, and added unneeded length, were the massive amounts of stock footage shots used. A lot of this footage, especially during the final act, I've seen a dozen times in various indie productions. But it's not even about the footage itself - it's about how obvious it is - that it's stock footage. The entire film is shaky, and reality driven. Then you have these random shots placed throughout that are crystal clear, completely smooth and even colored completely differently. If nothing else, every single time a stock shot was used, I was completely removed from the film. It's always best, when using stock footage to at least attempt to match it to your production. Add a shake. Do some slight color correcting. Make it fit in with the world. And never use consistently to add to the length. It should be used to highlight your story only. Again, my opinion.
At the end of the day, "Fast Food & Cigarettes" was indeed, a slight breath of fresh air. I love productions that steer clear of the standard film format, and attempt to do their own thing. Anyone who really enjoys movies will agree, and will no doubt enjoy this flick. Had this been a little shorter, edited with a broader proverbial knife, I think I would have scored it a little higher. It's not about the length, rather what was contained within it. Still... definitely above average and obviously worthy for anyone who enjoys something a little different. A solid three stars.