Secondly, just as Sinclair did, Linklater shows us how corporate profits are intricately dependent upon the cheap labor of illegal immigrants.  Brought into this country, usually without any family, they soon discover that they are unable to protest the unsavory conditions, sexual harassment and low wages – much less the extreme workplace dangers – which characterize the meat-packing industry.  Its abuses are painfully spelled out here, with horrifying depictions of a predatory supervisor who takes advantage of young women; workers who turn to drugs to cope with their grinding responsibilities; and brutal amputations on the job that are blamed on the employees (and which, of course, go largely uncompensated).

Linklater allows several plot lines and characters to disappear, such as Don and his boss, and the plotline with Ethan Hawke, who plays Amber’s uncle, seems superfluous.  Linklater’s characters are also thinly drawn.  They’re not caricatures, but symbols, however, and as such, they work – particularly with such great acting from the all-star cast.  Valdaramma doesn’t do much, but Kinnear is perfect as the happy-go-lucky executive.  Cameos by Willis & Kristofferson set the right tone, and the Oscar-nominated Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”) is particularly moving as the recently-enlightened immigrant who sheds one solitary tear, at the end of the film, when forced to work on the “kill floor.”

As with its cousin, “Super Size Me,” which focused on the dangerous health issues connected to fast food consumption, you don’t need to be a vegetarian to be horrified by “Fast Food Nation.”  You may still become one, however, after seeing this.  Caveat carnivore.

AUDIENCE:  Adults only

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Audio commentary by director/screenwriter Richard Linklater and author/screenwriter Eric Schlosser
  • “Manufacturing Fast Food Nation” featurette
  • Photo Gallery
  • Flash Animation Films: “The Meatrix,” “The Meatrix II: Revolting,” “The Matrix II ½” and “The Backwards Hamburger”

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters smoke pot and drink in several scenes; characters are injured, allegedly due to use of methamphetamine; in other scenes characters refer to drug use.
  • Language/Profanity:   Numerous profanities and obscenities, including multiple uses of the f- word.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Fairly graphic depiction of couple having sex in vehicle, viewed from side but with upper nudity; in another scene a man extorts sex from a married woman (no nudity but graphic position); various references to sex throughout film.
  • Violence:   Reference to workplace dangers including the loss of limb; character with only one arm observes others; man warns people not to “f” with him while waving gun; character is abandoned during desert trek and left to die; character falls into machinery and screams in agony before leg is amputated (very graphic depiction); another character is injured trying to help him escape; cattle are brutally stunned and slaughtered (some while alive), skinned and gutted; many scenes depict copious quantities of animal blood and guts.