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Fast Food Nation
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Fast Food Nation is an excellent film about the very real and highly disturbing flaws that exist in a meat packing plant that provides the beef for Mickey's, a fictional fast food chain that doesn't exactly have its act together. Not only do we see how American lives are affected by this mess, we also see how desperate and sometimes frustrated, angry young people and illegal immigrants are drawn into this situation. The movie moves along at a good pace and the acting is terrific. The casting is excellent and this is one movie I must highly recommend even with a few hard to swallow (pardon the pun) scenes at the end of the "kill floor" at the meat processing plant.

When the action begins, we meet Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) who is a high level executive at a fast food chain company. One day Don's boss informs him that some students at a university have found that there is waste matter in the meat. Don's boss orders him to the Colorado packing plant to investigate and try to find a way out of this mess.

We also meet desperate, frightened, yet sometimes angry Mexican immigrants who were so desperate for money that they illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the US. Two or three of them wind up working at the meat packing plant in Cody, Colorado. There is Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and we also meet Coco (Ana Claudia Talancón). There are even young kids involved in the overall plot. There is Ashley Johnson who plays Amber, a cashier at Mickey's whose conscience bothers her about working there; and there is Paul Dano who turns in a stunning performance as Brian, a kid who spits in the food routinely and dreams up schemes to steal money from the fast food restaurant.

Of course, from here the plot can go almost anywhere. What happens when one of the Mexican men is injured--badly injured at the meat processing plant? How do Silvia and Coco get along when they get into the United States? What about Don Anderson--will he be able to find a graceful way out of this mess and make everything all right after all for Mickey's, the fast food chain? Watch the movie and find out!

We also get great smaller performances from highly talented actors including Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Willis. They make the movie all the more interesting and their acting is excellent, too.

The DVD comes with a documentary entitled "The Manufacturing of Fast Food Nation;" and there are four animated shorts as well. There is a commentary by director and co-author Richard Linklater and co-author Eric Schlosser as well.

Overall, I would recommend this film for grown ups--and those of them with strong stomachs at that. There is the issue of drug use in this film; and the scenes from the "kill floor" are not exactly going to help you sleep well tonight. However, if you can handle it, Fast Food Nation is a brilliant film that even allows its viewers to draw their own conclusions and opinions about these complicated topics.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 18, 2006
The movie follows three groups of people who are all affected by the fast food industry in some way: teenagers working at "Mickey's, illegal immigrants crossing into the United States and working at a meatpacking plant, and a man who works for the Mickey's company, in advertising. Though their paths only cross briefly if at all, the premise seems interesting. It shows the way the workers are treated, how someone can lose an arm or a leg in one of the machines, the "kill floor" and the graphic nature of cattle being slaughtered. Though it appears sanitary, there is a lot of "talk" from those that are connected to the place. Don Anderson ventures out to find the true story when his boss tells him that there was "fecal matter" discovered in the Mickey's meat. (Yet he still continues to eat it.)

All of this presented to you in an entertaining way makes the audience think. Yet there is something missing. Maybe it would have been better as a documentary. I think the reason that this movie was made as fiction, is so that it would reach more of an audience. Documentaries aren't viewed as often...though I would have loved to see it filmed that way.

I enjoyed the small parts by Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Avril Lavigne, and Bruce Willis. The message comes through loud and clear: big business doesn't care about customers, it cares about the almighty dollar. The only thing that can be done is, you have to stop buying their food. Until then, I hope to see more movies like this opening our eyes about the fast food industry.

I think it could have been done a little bit better. It's almost as if there is too much ground to cover, and a 2 hour film just doesn't do it. With that said, it may still put you off of fast food for a while. Pass the organic beef, please.
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56 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2006
There's a sequence near the end of this film showing the slaughter of cows that must be seen to be believed. I've been a vegetarian for quite a while and this sequence made me cry. Yeah, I'm not ashamed to say that.

From one perspective, it's easy to say that this is an ultra liberal's view of American corruption. But how much of the film is false? Do Mexicans REALLY get shipped into the US as cheap illegal labor to work in meat packing plants by a collusion of the plants and outfits like "Mickey's" (an obvious stand-in for the most well-known name in fast food hamburgers in the US)? Oh yeah. They do. Does fecal matter ACTUALLY make its way into the ground meat that gets shipped out from the plant to "Mickey's" locations all over the US? Gee. Would I be shocked if that weren't true? Do corporate executives NOT care about what the public eats as long as their company makes healthy profits? Hey, it's the American way.

Linklater redeems himself here after the dubious virtues of "A Scanner Darkly"--bigtime. This is an acid portrait of American GREED and CORRUPTION to the maximum extent possible. If you don't think twice about becoming a vegetarian--or close to one--after seeing this film, you may want to check your pulse. Do I have a certain political leaning here myself? Yep. I do.

Kris Kristofferson shows up as, surprise, a kind of good guy (sort of)--a cattle rancher who verbally blasts the meat packer he's selling his cattle to for their corrupt practices. Bruce Willis is on hand as the meat packing plant CEO who basically doesn't give a s**t about anything except his own pockets. Greg Kinnear, the main character, is a "Mickey's" marketing exec who DOES have a conscience, but ultimately...yeah, you guessed it.

The Mexicans portrayed here are so caught up in wanting to make more money (who could blame them?) that they work at a meat packing plant pulling kidneys out of dead cows, putting up with sexual abuse, and occasionally suffering horrific accidents that can leave them maimed for life.

The bottom line: America is a meat factory. And the people who make the meat will do everything and anything they need to do to insure that the meat keeps getting ground out--full of fecal matter or not. Cause that's where the money is.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2007
Warning: watching the last three minutes of this film can lead to vegetarianism. Based upon Eric Schlosser's devastating book about the fast food industry by the same title (2001), this fictional film never quite finds its focus. The ostensibly main character disappears half way through, never to reappear. It's not clear which of the many sub-plots is the main narrative. But I still recommend the movie. When corporate hack Don discovers that there are more than chemical additives to Mickeys "Big One" burger, namely fecal matter, he travels to the Uniglobe Meat Packing Company to find out what's wrong. Lots, it turns out. You'll find yourself back in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906), what with illegal immigrant labor on the cheap, animal cruelty, horrible sanitation, hazardous work conditions, employee abuse, pitiless corporate greed, and more, all to feed our fast food habits. You'll never think about a Big Mac in the same way, nor should you, thanks to this mediocre movie that nevertheless provides some serious social commentary.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2008
I thought "Fast Food Nation" would be a fascinating documentary about, among other things, the lies cooked up in corporate test kitchens. My favorite image from Eric Schlosser's engaging expose is that of the scientist fooling him with the scent of a juicy freshly grilled burger when there's no burger or grill in the room--I was expecting killer stuff like this.

Nothing of the kind. There's a truckload of characters in this psuedo-doc, some sympathetically but superficially portrayed (hideously exploited undocumented workers), some thoroughly idiotic (ultra-silly teens who decide to liberate cows in an excruciatingly long section that should have been left on the cutting-room floor), and the corporate chain of command, which should be the focus but for some unknown reason isn't. They're all thrown together as a mural, and it doesn't cohere--it's just another "Nashville" wannabe, and a waste of some good talent (effective use of Bruno for a few minutes, however).

When I left the theatre, I ran straight to the nearest burger joint!
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
As many others have already commented, this is nothing like the book even though they share the same title. The writers even stated in the commentary that the they decided to "set the book aside". Having said that I will restrict my comments to the merits of the movie alone.

This disjointed, rambling, unfocused movie tries to intertwine several stories into one:

* A successful marketing executive (Greg Kinnear) for a large fast food chain (the not too cleverly named "Mickey's") is sent by his boss on a mission to find out why there is feces in their meat
* A young woman who quits her promising (?) job at Mickey's and joins with some other activists only to find out that cows are big, stupid animals that are not at all interested in being "set free"
* Several immigrants from Mexico who are spirited into the country by a "coyote" (portrayed by the always great Luis Guzman) and find various jobs in the food industry
* A crotchety cattle rancher (Kris Krisofferson) who paints meat packers as the evil empire
* Two teenage Mickey's employees who plan to rob a fast food restaurant but never do

Although the various story lines do intersect slightly, none of them (save the plot with the Mickey's executive) really seem to have a point, and even that one ends with a fizzle.

Even though this film boasts an all-star cast the acting seems wooden and the characters are burdened with dull and meaningless dialog. The only bright spot (besides Guzman) was Bruce Willis' portrayal of a meat buyer for Mickey's where he steals the scene with his "we all have to eat a little sh*t from time to time" speech. Also, the effort to tie illegal immigration to the problems with American's addiction to fast food just doesn't gel for me.

This movie was so dull that made me long for even a mediocre documentary. It tries to take the high moral ground but fails in every attempt. There is a story out there in how America feeds itself, but this film fails to bring anything worthwhile to the discussion other than the fact that slaughter houses are nasty (did we really need to be told that?). Even the special features (animated shorts such as the Meatrix and The Backwards Hamburger) are feeble attempts to "educate" us in the evils of the industrial farming industry. In the end they only trivialize some important issues, issues that need intelligent discourse, not talking cows.

I bought a copy of the DVD based on the strength of the book. I threw it away in order to clear the space on my shelf for a more worthy title. There are plenty of good movies out there and this is certainly not one of them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
This movie was all over the map... with the attempted style of a desperate rambling Magnolia plot with an obvious (and valid) political agenda but with nothing really meaningful to tie everything and everybody together. It had a dozen or two political points to make but no cimematic point to speak of. Read the book... get all the same information... and skip the movie. It felt like it was way too long. The little promo cartoon in the DVD extra's called "Backwards Cow" or "Backwards Burger" was absolutely just as effective as the entire movie and pulled it off in less then five minutes. I thought the cast and acting performances were plenty solid... just wasted in this mess of a movie.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
FAST FOOD NATION got such minimal response in the theater run that it seemed to go straight to DVD. The PR for the film was such that it appeared to be 'hilariously funny' (according to the DVD box cover) and as such might just provide a bit of humor after a tumultuous day of work. WRONG! This little film adapted by Richard Linklater from Eric Schlosser's frightening book is agonizingly biting and insightful: if you elect to watch it, be prepared for some ugly facts that may just produce insomnia.

Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) is a marketing strategist for 'Mickey's', a fast food chain that is highly successful in selling millions of 'The Big One' (the comparisons to the McDonald's Big Mac are not subtle!) and discovers that the meat patties have been found to grow E. coli in the lab! On an expedition to explore the validity of this problem he travels to Cody, Colorado to visit the plant that produces the meat patties for the entire national chain. And so the plethora of storylines begin: the film examines the illegal immigrants from south of the border brought in by coyotes, treated like dirt, and given jobs 'cleaning' the meat plant and working the food chopping lines and eventually the killing and slaughtering of the cattle whose housing conditions are filth personified; the teenage workers who people the Mickey's chain are shown to be discontent and equally capable of planning robberies as they are of attempting to free the soon-to-be-burgers cattle; the callous corporate types who cover the facts in favor of increasing monetary gain; the plant workers who abuse the immigrant workers in every way possible; the utter boredom of the populace of Cody and the resultant pacified response to the 'big problems' that seethe through their town. Yes, it is an expose of corruption on many levels, but the film doesn't stop there.

Linklater and Schlosser are careful to include the individuals caught up in the mess and those individuals run the gamut from the immigrants who only want to find a better way of life and will subject themselves to horrors both in their trek across the border and the mistreatment in the factories to find it, to the honest men of the corporations, the ranchers, and the teenagers who try to make a stand against the many problems that overwhelm them. And that is what makes the film so moving: it personalizes rather than generalizing.

The cast is huge and without exception excellent: Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale, Ashley Johnson, Paul Dano, Patricia Arquette, Luis Guzmán, Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancón, Juan Carlos Serrán, Armando Hernández, Esai Morales, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne...the cast just goes on and on. Be ready for some horrendously brutal scenes not only in the killing and cutting lines but in the sexual abuses equally as tragic. This is a film that should affect the viewer, and while it is overly long at almost two hours, it is as pungent a social comment as has been made. Grady Harp, March 07
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Released in time to celebrate anniversary of 'The Jungle''s publication, this film also is loosely based upon the book version of 'Fast Food Nation'.

In our harried capitalist societies, fast-food appears to be a 'life saver': we get a quick meal at a low price. However, the film graphically asks us to consider what we are actually valuing our lives to be worth if the stuff we are ingesting contains unspeakable waste products. Quick and cheap thus ultimately comes at a far greater cost than what is advertised in the 'resturants'.

The films focus on the beef industry's horrors honestly did not bother me because I only eat chicken and fish, and avoid fast food restaurants--having read earlier exposes.

While some animal consumers might feel the screenplay is self-righteously condemning us, I honestly saw it as exposing the dichotomies between 'family friendly' restaurants and 'unsanitary' big businesses. The cinematic direction of this screenplay alternates between 'reality' and 'parody' which admittedly might be annoying for people who go in looking for a direct storyline, but seeing Wilmer Valderrama in this film was a delight.

What really and continues to jump out at you is that these 'kid places' are 'big businesses' only concerned about making the most money possible--and 'cleanliness' of their products is really only a facade.

This facade is expertly designed to lure in unsuspecting consumers who probally would quickly drive right by if they really knew why their fast food tastes the way it does. The enduring popularity of fast-food franchises throughout the American landscape is evidence enough of how effective the bait remains.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2007
How does one explain the charms of Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation" without recognizing that its most wonderful, honest moments reveal it as a failure?

We expect a tactical strike on fast food restaurants and the meatpacking industry. A film version of "The Jungle," or at least the Eric Schlosser book it's based on. But Linklater crafts something much tamer. "Fast Food Nation" is not sunny, per se, but it's hardly a satire; it takes frustrating Linklatarian detours. It says too much, too incoherently.

It mirrors real life, to some extent - how often do we communicate poignantly and pointedly? - but, given the book as a template and a free shot at the business, it whiffs like the local scholar at the coffee house might. Many scenes are excellent little gems of writing and acting, but they're also beside the central point: Fast food is a disgusting industry, organically and morally, and yet, built on the backs of the poor and overweight, it's essentially unstoppable. We expect a fearless work that begs for lawsuits. "Fast Food Nation," instead, exercises its table manners in all the wrong spots.

Set in fictional Cody, Colo., the movie unsuccessfully juggles three storylines, all of which revolve around fast food chain Mickey's.

One involves a group of illegal immigrants (Wilmar Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno among them) sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border to work in a meatpacking plant. The plant is being investigated by Mickey's executive Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) for mixing [...] into the meat that becomes Mickey's signature "Big One" hamburger. The third plot concerns a bright, working class high schooler named Amber (Ashley Johnson), who faces the dim prospect of wasting her best years at a local Mickey's joint.

These plots never really intertwine; rather, they run alongside each other, telling the fast food story from different angles. Surprisingly, the executive's journey to Cody makes the most impact, as Linklater sends Don on an investigation full of sharp cameos (Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis) that essentially confirms his fear and yet leaves him little way to change it. Willis' single scene, where he plays a liaison between Mickey's and the meatpacking plant, is spot on in its depiction of indiscriminate, willful corporate greed. Willis, never an actor`s actor, knows the guts of this character; he eats his burger, sloppily and ravenously, like a vulture. It's a terrific performance.

The immigrants' plight deserves its own movie, and some of set ups (a cute Mexican girl falls under the sexual influence of a abusive supervisor) never quite pay off. Linklater takes jabs at the meatpacking industry without ever fully teeing off; he reveals the "kill floor," with its gut streams and blood puddles, at the very end, after several random detours. Valderrama is unmemorable. Moreno mostly stands on the sideline.

The final story, involving the girl, is the most perplexing. Here, it seems Linklater is attempting to inject the ennui from "Slacker," and "Dazed and Confused" into the dim-lit Mickey's restaurant. The 23-year-old Johnson actually seems like a confused kid, but her longest scenes are spent conversing with her hardened mother (Patricia Arquette) and "cool" uncle, played by Ethan Hawke.

The three actors share some nice moments, and these conversations lead Amber toward some local college activists (one of whom is Avril Lavigne) and a daring act of protest. And yet, again, this little diversion seems beside the point.

Which isn't to say the unconventional approach is worthless. "Fast Food Nation" unfocused as it seems, doesn't come off like some Michael Moore tirade. Kinnear's character and performance is meant to humanize Mickey's to some extent, and Esai Morales portrays an uptight-but-decent Mickey's supervisor.

Aside from the meatpacking supervisor and Willis' delicious villain, "Fast Food Nation" is a movie of normal, scared, private Americans quietly get ground up by the machinery of big business. Problem is, none of them really know that, and the movie doesn't seem to, either. It underachieves by merely being smart and observant. It is as helpless as that Mickey's executive, who sits in a board room at the end, wishing to be somewhere, anywhere, else.
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