Based on a factual and damning indictment of the fast food industry by Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation tries terribly hard to be the “Traffic” of the meat packing industry, but the fictionalized approach lacks the biting satire required to do the material justice.
The story begins quite well, focusing on a fast food company executive investigating an allegation that their burgers have “got shit in them” and it makes for a couple of good scenes involving nice cameos by Bruce Willis as a corporate hard ass and Kris Kristofferson as a jaded rancher. But half way through the film he just disappears, never to be seen again and it becomes a daytime soap opera about immigration. Obviously fearing Mclawyers, the film is based on fictitious companies and therefore passes the buck onto non-existent perpetrators and the whole thing just feels like a toothless, unfocused tirade by an easily ignored soap box environmentalist.
Done as a straight documentary adaptation of the book Fast Food Nation could have been a powerful statement but if Richard Linklater really felt the need to dramatize he should have watched Thank You For Smoking first to see how it’s done properly.