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2012 | 90 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 07 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Syrup Blu-ray

Syrup Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 23, 2013

“Syrup” takes on the cutthroat world of marketing, a battleground where anything goes in terms of content, as long as it sells. The same disposability applies to the employees as well, who often engage in pure ruthlessness to secure work and reputation, handing the picture fanged potential that’s aching for a smart directorial approach to lend the material momentum and a biting sense of humor. “Syrup” doesn’t head in that direction, instead self-consciously watering down its acid splashes to appease sensitive moviegoers, introducing a dead weight romantic subplot to soften the blow. It’s a spunky film, but only in frustrating fits, with the majority of the feature overly concerned with its appearance, generating a sliver of irony to go with all the mediocrity.

Scat (Shiloh Fernandez) is an ambitious young man looking to make his mark in the world of marketing, dreaming up a worthless energy soda named Fukk to sell to a massive corporation on the hunt for new ideas. Unfortunately, Scat’s idea is stolen by his roommate, Sneaky Pete (Kellan Lutz), who uses the success of Fukk to spin driven associate 6 (Amber Heard) insane with envy, who quickly sets out to find a way to strike back. Teaming with Scat to cook up a thrilling summer campaign, 6 uses her cunning ways with sex appeal and business acumen to push her partner into action, soon falling in love with him, only to remain aloof as the important details of their revenge scheme are put into production. For Scat, redemption doesn’t consume him, yet he can’t shake 6 out of his system, endeavoring to build a brand that will knock Fukk out of the game, desperate to impress his partner out of her clothes.

“Syrup” is clearly patterned off Jason Reitman’s “Thank You for Smoking,” a similar foray into the black heart of smug manipulation, registering to some as the cutting edge of satire. Adapted by Max Barry from his own 1999 novel (co-scripted by director Aram Rappaport), the picture promises a distinctive vision with its first few minutes, swooping in with a crisp plan of attack as it reinforces the objectives of marketing and the sheep mentality of consumerism, studying Scat (an unfortunate name selected to help him stand out from the pack) and his rapid-fire mind hunting for his big break, targeting a soda company in need of something severe to meet their goals. His entry point is found in 6, a sharp woman facing a defeating atmosphere of sexism, hoping to reach the next level of her career on her own terms. Breaking the fourth wall, employing animation, and scribbling right on the screen, Rappaport is raring to go with “Syrup,” dreaming up a wham-bang visual approach that’s hungry to knock viewers over with insight and curtness of character, transforming the creation of a crudely named soda into a bloodbath that destroys friendships and engenders disillusionment. Admittedly, the set-up is enticing, especially when the effort hints at a savage beheading of the energy drink industry, which merely exists to sell not satisfy.

Being unlikable is in the bloodstream of “Syrup.” The movie should be repellent as it works through the steps of deception and illusion, with Scat receiving the education of a lifetime as the backstabbings commence. However, the screenplay is looking to be loved, introducing a squirt of warm feelings between Scat and 6 to counterbalance the manipulation on display. It’s a strange choice, feeling alien to a picture that’s about individuals perfecting the art of dishonesty, wielding it as a weapon. The eventual slide into romantic intentions is false, and worse, it takes time away from the soda wars that reside at the heart of the film. The saga of Fukk and its eventual competitor Kok is shooed away to make room for googly eyes between two characters who have already proven themselves to be loathsome human beings, willing to do anything to preserve corporate advancement. Rappaport and Barry overestimate the appeal of the leads, while performances by Heard and Fernandez are more convincing in moral free-fall mode than when the business class gladiators are asked to hold hands.

Further conscience kicks in the final act, watching Scat begin to comprehend the enormity of his actions when he discovers the depraved depths of the competition’s P.R. stunts, while a severe act of sacrifice greets Kok’s debut, sobering the scoundrel up. Again, “Syrup” is angling for sympathy when it’s more credible as a celebration of cultural disease and consumerist apathy, using bracing depictions of marketing brutality to remind of the viewer of real world similarities. Cruelly, the production pulls every last one of its punches, rendering “Syrup” ineffective as satire and borderline insulting as drama.

Starring: Amber Heard, Shiloh Fernandez, Kellan Lutz, Brittany Snow, Rachel Dratch, Josh Pais
Narrator: Toby Hemingway
Director: Aram Rappaport

» See full cast & crew

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"Syrup" 8 May 06, 2013

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