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Fast-food chain Mickey's marketing man Don (Greg Kinnear) is sent to investigate the meat packing plant in Cody, Colorado, where the chain's most popular burger, The Big One, comes from, following tests showing the meat contains bacteria. Raul (Wilmer Valderrama), Coco (Ana Claudia Talancon) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandina Moreno) are also new to Cody, illegal migrants from Mexico working cheap at the meat packing plant. School kid Amber (Ashley Johnson) works at Mickey's to help pay her mother (Patricia Arquette) with the bills and hopefully save enough to get out of town. Disillusioned with the corporate practices, Amber and her friends plan sabotage.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In a rare honour, filmmaker Richard Linklater had two films selected for Cannes in 2006: A Scanner Darkly (Un Certain Regard) and Fast Food Nation, the latter in the main Competition. This built up expectations that the film can't satisfy. If the Cannes selectors wanted to replicate the controversy and political sizzle created by the inclusion of Fahrenheit 911 a couple of years earlier, A Scanner Darkly would have been a better choice for the Competition.

Turned into fiction from the non-fiction bestseller by Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation sets up a scenario but fails to satisfactorily complete it; the scandalous discovery of bacteria from cow manure in the beef patties triggers a quiet investigation which shows up bad practice at the meatworks but doesn't really go anywhere. In a non fiction context, the fizzling out of the probe can be part of the story, but in drama this is just fizzling out. Linklater manipulates the audience with scenes in the abattoir section ('the kill floor') of the plant, which confront us with the butchery of cows, but doesn't really touch on the central question suggested at the beginning.

The various character strands of the film seem laboured and artificial, although some are saved by performances, like Kris Kristofferson's cameo as a veteran cattle farmer.

The main subplot about illegal Mexican migrants swallowed up by the unscrupulous meat packing company is valid and is the film's greatest strength. The characters involved in this part of the story, and the excellent cast, make us think and make us care.

Irritating sidebar plot points about Patricia Arquette's character add to the disjointed nature of the screenplay, while Greg Kinnear's marketing man proves unsatisfactory from a dramatic point of view. He neither condones nor attacks the company's policies, seeming to accept what passes for accountability in a way that may echo real life, but doesn't satisfy an audience. Still, Kinnear is always great to watch.

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(US, 2006)

CAST: Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale, Luis Guzman, Ethan Hawke, Ashley Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, Esai Morales, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ana Claudia Talancon, Wilmer Valderrama

PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas, Malcolm McLaren

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

SCRIPT: Richard Linklater, Eric Schlosser (novel by Schlosser)


EDITOR: Sandra Adair


RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 26, 2006

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