Fast Food Nation

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne and Kris Kristofferson
Tartan Video
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 27 August 2007

Don Henderson is a corporate marketing whiz at Mickey's Fast Food Restaurant chain, home of 'The Big One'. When he discovers that contaminated meat is getting into the frozen patties of the company's best-selling burger, his investigations uncover more than he bargained for...

Fast Food Nation could have been an impressive expose of the fast food industry. Instead the above synopsis basically tells the entire story. Henderson's investigations don't exactly "uncover more than he bargained for". All he really does is confirm what is suspected - that there is contaminated meat in the food chain. But then how many burgers that you buy from supermarkets have traces of bone and guts in them?

Sadly this movie doesn't really inform anyone of anything. While it touches on areas of serious interest, it doesn't really delve any further. Where's the facts and figures?! How many migrant workers are smuggled into the USA to work illegally? Are teenage workers being exploited? Do the chains really make their staff input information on their tills about the ethnicity of their customers? Does meat in some of our burgers really contain sh*t and if so which companies were responsible.

It's funny isn't it? Cow sh*t (in general - although god knows what chemicals the ranches pump into their cows) is not technically that harmful to humans, especially once it's been cooked. I loved the way that the fact that minute traces of cow faeces in a burger is seen as revolting. We eat so much processed food these days which has carcinogenic material deliberately added into it, but not many people feel physically sick at the thought of that. But tell them there's faeces in their burger and they'll come close to vomiting.

Sadly this film goes for shock value without providing any real meat (if you'll excuse the pun). The abattoir kill floor scenes are quite revolting - as they are supposed to be; the sh*t in the burgers is supposed to make you feel sick; there's even a bloody accident scene where one of the migrant workers looses a leg - come on! How clichéd is that?!?!

At the end of the day I felt that director Richard Linklater was trying to shock as much of his audience as possible without really upsetting the companies he was attacking. While it's all well and good to have a made up burger company to represent the other big companies, this ends up playing out like a work of fiction.

Wouldn't it have been a better film if Linklater had spent a bit more time trying to get in on the ground floor of one of the big fast food chains? How difficult would it have been to have to take the issues that he does with this film and then go and investigate it properly.

Even the slaughter house was actually one that was filmed outside of the US. Linklater (on the interview that forms one of the extras on this DVD) admitted that it was cleaner than the abattoirs he'd seen in the US. If that was the case (and he'd seen a lot of bad abattoirs in the US) why didn't he do some underground filming in a poor abattoir, instead of the carefully staged scenes we get.

Strip away the impressive line up of actors and you've got yourself a pretty dull film. If you want to see how it's done you want to get hold of Morgan Spurlock's vastly superior Super Size Me - which also used Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation as inspiration.

Extras include a 15 min interview with Linklater; 21 min interview with Schlosser; and the trailer.

Like the fast food industry that Linklater is trying to attack, he neatly packages a cosy little manufactured film that is not as wholesome as he'd have you believe. In fact, this film is so watered down that I'm surprised McDonalds didn't sponsor it.

Darren Rea

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£11.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
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£10.99 (HMV.co.uk)
HMV Exclusive: Contains DVD and complete Fast Food Nation book By Eric Schlosser
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All prices correct at time of going to press.