The Foot Fist Way

2008, Movie, R, 87 mins


This scrappy, ultra-low budget comedy, made in 19 days for $70,000 by North Carolina School of the Arts graduates Jody Hill, Danny McBride and Ben Best, comes with its own Cinderella tale: It debuted at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival but failed to find distribution until comedian Will Ferrell and his business partner, Adam McKay, championed it.

Fred Simmons (co-writer Danny McBride) runs a strip-mall tae kwon do school, preaching the foot fist way to chubby kids, pimply teens and adults with issues. He's a self-deluded, white trash blowhard, married to a trampy bottle blond named Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic) and full of the kind of empowering aphorisms that sound more convincing coming from martial artists who don't have beer guts and '70s porn star mustaches. He's grooming an apprentice – cheerful little butterball Julio (Spencer Moreno) – and trying to make a man out of Henry (Carlos Lopez), who started classes because he was being bullied. His best friend from high school, Mike McAllister (director and co-writer Hill), is some kind of head case with delusions of fifth-degree black belt grandeur, and they both worship b-movie stalwart Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (co-writer Best).

There's not a whole lot of plot: Simmons goes into a tailspin after learning that Suzie is fooling around with her new boss and tries to recover his warrior spirit by persuading Wallace to attend the school's end-of-year exercises, ostensibly because it would be such a thrill for his students. That's just an excuse to string together a series of set pieces loosely organized via the five tenets of tae kwan do -- Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance Self-control and Fighting Spirit – and driven by Simmons' excruciating pomposity, failure to live up to his lofty declarations and all-around bone-headed idiocy. His behavior is so consistently inappropriate it's mind-boggling – not exactly funny, but the kind of thing that prompts laughter because it's so excruciatingly discomfiting. Say, the sight of a grown man whaling on an eight year old student because he thinks the kid's father is Suzie's boss, or explaining to Henry what a hand job and why all women are mendacious whores. You can see what appealed to Ferrell – his career was built on goofier, less borderline-sociopathic variations on the theme. The filmmaking is rough around the edges, but the dialogue is dead on, McBride, Hill and Best nail their characters (it would be easy to assume they're just playing themselves) and the stunts are uncomfortably convincing. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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