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Fast Food

Category: Fast Food Reviews
Article Date: February 1, 2000 | Publication: Sight and Sound | Author: Kevin Maher

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As a compendium of derivative movie moments, Fast Food has taken the art of referencing other films to a new and absurd level. Within its noirish story parameters (Benny is a small-time player who ends up embroiled in a world of violent crime when he falls for Claudia, a gangster's moll), debut director Stewart Sugg makes countless, often incongruous nods to other films. In one of Fast Food's first scenes, for instance, Benny's gang assault an old tramp in the Underground. Why? Presumably because it looks like a similar scene from A Clockwork Orange (1971). Benny takes drugs at a party. Why? So he can spin around the room attached to the camera like Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets (1973). When Zac shoots a pizza-delivery boy, it's not vital to the story, but it happened in GoodFellas, so why not? Then there's Dwayne, the gangster who bursts into Claudia's flat like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and then starts quoting verbatim from Carlito's Way - "Do you think you're big time? You're gonna die big time!"

The result of all this showy, strangely distracting referencing is that there is little texture left for the characters in the film. They seem like ciphers from US urban crime movies, ready for the next scene (from Casino, perhaps, or Reservoir Dogs). The central relationship of Benny and Claudia feels forced and smacks of male wish-fulfilment. Emily Woof's blind Claudia is a well-worn noir conceit. From Ida Lupino in On Dangerous Ground (1951) to Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967), the blind heroine in jeopardy is a familiar figure, one who compensates for her disability by being extra resourceful. Yet Claudia is deeply ineffectual and infantile, prone to displaying her underwear and running about her apartment like a giddy wood nymph. It also doesn't help that Woof plays her as if she is still rehearsing.

Sugg's direction is perfunctory (apart from a few narratively redundant visual flourishes such as a helicopter shot of Benny talking on the phone) but it's his writing that really lets him down. Claudia and Benny's dialogue is particularly excruciating. "I used to buy sweets from your Dad's shop. I've come to rescue you," says Benny. "Maybe we can rescue each other," replies Claudia. Elsewhere plot plausibility is utterly rejected under the pressure of narrative resolution. Despite being shot at and betrayed by Benny, the gang forgive him when Flea inexplicably kills himself. And finally, there's blind Claudia, whose eyes were torn to shreds when she was a child. After she is bumped on the head while fleeing the mob, her eyesight magically returns in time for the closing credits.


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