Barry is not a nice guy. He mistreats his wife, refuses to identify their child as his son and he’s most happy – not that he’s much happier – when he’s getting drunk or off his face on drugs. He’s on yet another evening of substance abuse when his bender is curtailed somewhat abruptly. He doesn’t even get to go for a kebab before he’s abducted by aliens who take possession of his body and send it back down for a wander through the city of Cape Town.
As with the previous, jolting short of the same name, this is also tagged as “A Ryan Kruger Thing” and those four words would seem to sum up Fried Barry. What is this? Is it horror? Is it sci-fi? Is it a nightmare drug trip? Is it drama? Is it comedy? What is it? Well, it’s certainly a thing, of that we can be certain.
Expanding the original idea to feature length, Kruger’s tale heads down a similar jarring path and throwing in several downright WTF moments while taking us from its predecessor’s single location and heading out for a tour of the metropolis. And what a tour it is. If you’re working to attract visitors to Cape Town you’re going to need a stiff drink when you see this.
After poking around our anti-hero’s body and taking control in a disturbing sequence, the alien-controlled Barry is dumped back on the street where it was snatched. At this point, many films would probably have had the alien go on a murderous rampage but that would be far too by the numbers for this film.
Alien Barry has no language skills but his enforced silence is mistaken for just how Barry deals with people in general. As a fellow bar patron says of him pre-abduction, Barry is a good listener even though the guy is probably misreading Old Barry’s staggering air of disinterest in anything that isn’t alcoholic or narcotic.
Instead of the alien racking up the corpses and the film heading in a gory, action-fuelled direction, Barry heads off to experience the seedy underbelly of society, almost immediately stumbling upon a guy giving a blowjob whilst humming the national anthem (and not the new one – the old one). It only gets stranger from there, the story taking weirder and weirder turns while Barry’s long-suffering missus sees the change in her spouse and spots a hitherto unseen glimmer of hope for their relationship.
This often feels like it’s an anthology of shorts stuck together with Barry as just about the only common denominator. There are surprisingly tender moments which collide with jarring, grubby sex scenes. There are drug taking montages underscored by Haezer’s vibrant, pulsing soundtrack. There’s flying. There’s a fight involving a chainsaw. There’s involuntary dental work. There’s a rescue mission. There’s a staggeringly ineffective police interrogation. There’s one of the most freakish pregnancy sequences you’ll ever see. There’s a short intermission in which you might want to get a hot dog or a cola. There’s even time for its own individual take on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
If you think the previous paragraph is a spoiler, trust me, it isn’t. All of the above happens but not in any way that leads to much else in terms of an overarching plot. Barry literally wanders into all of these scrapes and the unspecified limits to his extra-terrestrial powers mean that you never have the slightest idea as to whether or not he can extricate himself from the increasingly bonkers situations in which he finds himself.
The episodic nature of the action means that it’s not the easiest film to get a grip of but Fried Barry isn’t the slightest bit interested in feeding its audience something predictable. It has moments which are so out there that it could be argued there’s a risk of losing the viewer but Kruger seems to have no qualms about challenging those who watch this and that makes the film a fascinating prospect for anyone willing to take this on.
Giving the proceedings the biggest of assists in terms of retaining interest in the seemingly random grab-bag of story elements is Gary Green’s striking, memorable performance in the title role, his physicality and gaunt, weathered appearance just as important as his ability to convey his inner turmoil or confusion with a single expression or, paradoxically, the lack of one. Even when the pace flags or events turn patience-stretchingly bizarre, it’s nigh-on impossible to take your eyes off Green.
What starts with an air of bleak nihilism eventually gives way to an unexpectedly affecting look at the qualities which mark us out as human, given extra emotional punch by the way those qualities are discovered and underlined by a true outsider. For all of the banging dance tunes, the drug-fuelled nightmares, the bursts of gore and violence, Fried Barry turns out to be curiously sweet. In a movie so unrelentingly odd, that may be the oddest thing of all.