Fried Barry. 2020.
Directed & Written by Ryan Kruger.
Starring Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael, Johnny Piennar, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Steve Wall, Deon Lotz, Tuks Tad Lungu, Joe Vaz, Grant Swanby, & Joey Cramer.
The Department of Special Projects / Enigma Ace Films
Not Rated / 99 minutes
Comedy / Horror / Sci-fi
★★★★1/2Fried Barry began as a short film several years ago before director-writer Ryan Kruger expanded it into a full-length feature. It’s easy to see how Kruger could’ve compacted the story down to 3 minutes, solely focused on Barry (Gary Green), a burnt out addict. In an hour and a half, the story’s expanded to a fuller perspective on addiction along with plenty of wild bells and whistles to not only expand on the short but go far beyond its scope.
Kruger’s film follows Barry through Cape Town on a bender, like every other night. Except tonight he winds up being abducted by an alien spacecraft. An alien does strange things to him, but it’s no mere probing. The extradimensional being puts itself inside Barry, allowing it a chance to study human behaviour on the ground and up close. Barry can’t do anything other than buckle up and go for a ride until the alien’s learned enough to go home.
Within a film that, on its face, is wonderfully trashy madness there are socially relevant themes tied to Barry’s time being under the control of an otherworldly being. Fried Barry is at once hilarious and serious, using humour to keep things slightly foolish while the chaotic plot simultaneously digs into important issues about addiction in Cape Town. The alien inside Barry is symbolic of how addiction controls us— I say us because I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic of 10+ years— and how we addicts become alienated from the rest of society, including those closest to us.
South Africa, and Cape Town specifically, is often considered to be where the gap between rich and poor is widest in the world. It’s especially noticeable in terms of race and the treatment of Black people due to the disgusting legacy of apartheid, even all these years later. As a result of the wealth disparity, gangs are prevalent in Cape Town. What does this have to do with Fried Barry? Well, South African National Defence Force soldiers have been deployed in Cape Flats. Rather than taking a proactive consideration of addiction/addicts, military force is being used against gangs because the gangs are seem as the problem, rather than a symptom of the greater issue. Like most everything in Cape Town, better rehab options and treatment are available to those with the money to buy it. Everyone else, like ole Barry, is left to their own devices. Barry’s lucky compared to many, particularly Black Cape Town residents. He lives in a house with Suz, rather than a tin shack where drugs and gang activity are rampant and the South African Police Service are busy squashing peoples civil rights.
Barry’s a microcosm of this treatment of addiction and addicts themselves. He’s treated with anger and resentment by his significant other, Suz (Chanelle de Jager). Rightfully so, because he’s a shitty guy who’s hooked on heroin and more concerned with his next high than with looking after Suz and their child. He’s given chance after chance, and Suz thinks he’s getting better— albeit when the alien’s inside him— but he’s an addict, and he’ll continue to slip back into addiction without genuine help. Barry, rather than being convinced to go get treatment, is either yelled at by Suz, or being fed drugs by other addicts he knows. It isn’t anybody else’s fault Barry’s an addict, least of all Suz’s, though it’s just as much the fault of friends and family if they continue to let him live the way he’s lived for so long without trying to get him into treatment.
“Fried. Definitely fried.”
The alien that puts itself inside Barry works like an allegory of addiction, representing addiction as an alien entity within us guiding our actions, something we cannot control. When the alien takes Barry over it initially has trouble adjusting its body to a human life form, going into a spastic fit and running through the streets in nothing but underwear. This is the same kind of behaviour we occasionally see in extreme addicts, whether they’re tripping out hard or going through sever withdrawals. When does alien Barry calm down? He’s back to normal only when a duo of fellow junkies get him high again and he’s back on his urban journey across Cape Town.
Barry also sees, through the alien, how he could be living a better life. The alien illustrates how much disparity there is between a normal life and that of an addict. It sees, through Barry’s self-destructive lifestyle, how not to live, and in the rest of humanity it sees better ways to live— such as alien Barry’s tender time with Suz and their child. Will Barry learn a lesson after all this? Who knows. The alien doesn’t seem to be trying to hurt Barry. So, perhaps it’s trying to help instead.
My favourite sequence is when alien Barry gets trapped by the maniac who’s been snatching up kids. Addicts, like other vulnerable people such as kids, fall through the cracks of a system built to serve the bourgeois— a system that for everyone else is built like Swiss cheese. Addicts, like children, get taken advantage of or put into the system. We see this too when Barry gets arrested. It’s the first time he’s being offered any help for his addiction, only after his arrest. There are little to no preventative measures in society, especially one like Cape Town, for addicts until they’ve all but ruined their lives. The alien inside Barry adventuring through the city is learning about human behaviour, it’s also hopefully teaching Barry something about humanity that he’s lost.Ryan Kruger comes out swinging with his first feature film. A no-holds barred sci-fi flick with drama, horror, and more than a handful of laughs. There’s a chaotic energy that very rarely lets up until the end. Most impressive is the performance of Gary Green as Barry. He has such a distinctive face that gives his character something special, and his alien, child-like sense of wonder in certain scenes can be both beautiful and hilarious at any given time. His performance brings weird life to a character that could’ve easily ended up too one-dimensional in the hands of another actor.
Fried Barry is one of my favourite films at Fantasia this year, an adrenaline shot experience that feels as greasy as it looks. It doubles so well as an important social allegory, too. Addiction isn’t understood by the majority of society, at least not in the way it ought to be— unfortunately the misunderstanding of addiction comes with casualties as addicts die every single day around the world. Cape Town has its own specific woes when it comes to race, class, and addiction, but Kruger’s film is one of universal power. The alien in Barry takes the audience on a ride that points out so much about the experience of being an addict while never feeling preachy, able to make a point and always remaining a load of fun. That’s fucking cinema, baby.