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USA 2006
Directed by
Richard Linklater
114 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Fast Food Nation

Taking  a best-selling non-fiction book of the same name by Eric Schlosser, Linklater  co-writing with the author presents it in a fictionalised format, tackling the same issues but putting a human face on them.

Greg Kinnear plays an obliging fast-food marketing executive who is sent to the company’s meat suppliers in Cody, Colorado to investigate reports of E. coli bacteria in its beef patties. Using a tip-top ensemble cast of  regular collaborators like Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette and one-offs like Kinnear and Bruce Willis,  Linklater makes this his springboard for a multi-layered exposé of the fast food industry from its corporate culture and the teenage employees who work behind the counters to the illegal Mexican immigrants who perform the bottom-end tasks required in the abattoirs (we are treated to gruesome footage of real slaughter and waste disposal) and the industrial scale husbandry which produces the animal in the first place

He does it for the most part effectively albeit at times at little didactically particularly in the latter stages when a group of young eco-activists get involved in the narrative but given the importance of the subject matter this is forgiveable in what is almost classifiable as a docu-drama, Of course there will be scoffers, who will no doubt  be itching to down a burger to show their disdain for Linklater’s tub-thumping but Fast Food Nation will have an effect on anyone who isn’t in a state of complete denial and disconnection.

Over and above the admirably provocative moral and ideological position-taking, Fast Food Nation stands up as a drama, Linklater weaving together his different strands in a manner not dissimilar to Paul Haggis’s Crash to create a tellingly complex picture of contemporary American consumer culture. In one of the best drawn characterisations, Greg Kinnear is spot-on as the decent but weak family man struggling with the conflicting demands of job security and his conscience as is Ashley Johnson as a young employee who shows a good deal more courage in this respect, whilst impressive performances also come from Bobby Cannavale as a predatory supervisor at the meatworks and Catalina Sandino Moreno (recently seen to good effect in Maria Full Of Grace) as one of his victims who has come to America in search of the not-so-wonderful Dream.





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