Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Director Julian Grant’s 2012 noir hybrid is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s a dizzying collage of different styles built upon a well-worn noir-inspired framework, one that would be particularly underwhelming if presented in a straightforward fashion. What ultimately saves “F*ckload of Scotch Tape” — or, if you prefer, “FLOST” — from the simplicity of this well-trodden premise is its tenacity, its willingness to push the envelope. Do all of these thoughts and ideas blend together into one delicious cinematic stew? For the most part, Grant and company handle all of these different tones rather well. Save for a few wonky bits here and there, they pull off this tricky balancing act quite well.
Graham Jenkins stars as Benji, a pathetic, self-serving drug addict who reluctantly agrees to kidnap, torment, and torture some kid for a local gangster named Mr. Kent (Brian Shaw). As it turns out, Benji’s whole purpose in this elaborate scheme to play the role of the patsy, much to the dismay of our hero. Armed with his wits and a suitcase full of money, Benji sets out on a quest to leave the past behind. Problem is, he can’t unseen the things he’s seen, undo the things he’s done. Images of the kid haunt him, and it’s slowly destroying his life.
Although he has enough money to live quietly on his own without the need for employment, Benji takes a job at a local diner washing dishes in an attempt to fit in. It’s here that he meets Chuck (Louie Lawless), another lowlife with a bad habit and lots of emotional baggage. The two scumbags soon develop a friendship, revealing deep, dark secrets to one another during binges in Benji’s basement apartment. However, when Chuck tries to put the moves on Benji, their relationship instantly sours. In short, Chuck beats the crap out of his new best buddy and makes off with the kid’s stash of money. Or, as Benji calls it, his soul.
The rest of the film is a surreal descent into the seedy world of neo-noir, a universe punctuated with intelligent writing, lush cinematography, and musical numbers. That’s right — musical numbers. Not full-blown “Rock of Ages”-style productions, mind you; just quiet, introspective acoustic numbers that give you a bit of insight into Benji’s state-of-mind. Once you get past the oddness of their inclusion — it became second nature by the second song — the gimmick works pretty well. Besides, it’s a good way to break up the starkness of this dark world and its inhabitants. Sprinkled in-between these ditties are a number of different techniques and quirks, all of which contribute greatly to the film’s peculiar tapestry. Were it not for a handful of dodgy fight sequences, the tone would have been pitch perfect.
“F*ckload of Scotch Tape” is a truly one-of-a-kind, a film that is destined to generate a substantial amount of buzz with indie film fanatics looking for something original, something outside of the proverbial box. It’s an intelligent film, one that’s fueled by Grant’s obvious love of noir, his eye for sharp, intriguing visuals, and the fearless dedication of his talented cast and crew. What’s more, the musical bits add so much to the atmosphere that you really don’t understand how much they’ve contributed to your overall enjoyment until after the credits have rolled. “FLOST” owes as much to “Double Indemnity” as it does “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Natural Born Killers”; the combination of genres may seem jarring at first, but once you catch its rhythm, you’re in for one truly awesome experience.
Julian Grant (director) / Julian Grant (screenplay), Jed Ayres (story)
CAST: Graham Jenkins … Benji
Louie Lawless … Chuck
Hannah Phelps … Trish
Brian Shaw … Mr. Kent