Fast Food Nation

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Rating: R

Starring:
Wilmer Valderrama as Raul
Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sylvia
Ana Claudia Talancón as Coco
Juan Carlos Serrán as Esteban
Armando Hernández as Roberto
Greg Kinnear as Don Henderson
Frank Ertl as Jack Deavers
Michael D. Conway as Phil
Mitch Baker as Dave
Ellar Salmon as Jay
Dakota Edwards as Stevie
Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Debi
Luis Guzmán as Benny
Bobby Cannavale as Mike
Francisco Rosales as Jorge

Special Features:
Commentary with Director Richard Linklater and Writer Eric Schlosser
Manufacturing “Fast Food Nation” Featurette
The Meatrix Flash Animation Short
The Meatrix II Flash Animation Short
The Meatrix II 1/2 Flash Animation Short
The Backwards Hamburger Flash Animation Short
Photo Gallery

Other Info:
Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 113 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“Inspired by the incendiary New York Times bestseller that exposed the hidden facts behind America’s fast food industry, ‘Fast Food Nation’ combines an all-star ensemble cast lead by Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama and Avril Lavigne with riveting, interlocked human stories. When a marketing executive (Kinnear) for the Mickey’s burger chain is told there’s a nasty secret ingredient in his latest culinary creation – “The Big One”? he heads for the ranches and slaughterhouses of Colorado to investigate…but discovers the truth a bit difficult to swallow.”

“Fast Food Nation” is rated R for disturbing images, strong sexuality, language and drug content.

Mini-Review:
“Fast Food Nation” wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be an expose on the practices of the fast food industry. While that is a portion of the plot, it’s much more about the plight of illegal immigrants in the country and the harsh working conditions they live under. We follow a group of them as they cross the border, find jobs, and work in dangerous conditions in a meat packing plant. This is by far the focus of the storyline.

Another plot line features Kinnear’s character investigating why e-coli is showing up in frozen hamburger patties, but that side plot is dropped halfway through the movie. Upon first glance this is what you expect the movie to center on, but it doesn’t. (It even features a great cameo by Bruce Willis.) Another side plot follows Ashley Johnson as Amber, a fast food employee who decides to fight the meat packing plant, but this ultimately goes nowhere. In fact, the whole film ends in an unsatisfying manner where none of the storylines are resolved. Instead, filmmaker Richard Linklater opts to conclude the movie by showing the full process of butchering a cow. He shows it being shot in the head, its throat being slit, its blood pouring out, getting gutted, and skinned. (I have no idea how he found a butchering plant that would let him film in it.) It’s really gross and ends up being the only thing you walk away from the movie thinking about.

“Fast Food Nation” doesn’t accomplish much other than making you think twice before you eat your next hamburger. But I imagine if you looked at the real process behind how any food is made, you’d think twice. You feel bad for the illegal immigrants, but at the same time you realize they’re there because they choose to be. You feel bad for the cows, but you’re probably still going to eat beef despite seeing how they’re butchered. The end result is a film that points out all the problems that exist in the beef industry but doesn’t offer up a whole lot of solutions, either.

There are quite a few bonus features on the DVD. You have your standard commentary with Director Richard Linklater and Writer Eric Schlosser and the usual “making of” featurette. The rest of the bonus features kind of reveal the real agenda behind the filmmakers – they want you to go vegetarian. There are a series of animated shorts called “The Meatrix”. Matrix-style farm animals tell all the evils of the meat industry from pollution to bio-engineering. That doesn’t change the fact that animals are tasty.

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