MOVIE - “TheFoot Fist Way”
DIRECTOR – Jody Hill
WRITER – Jody Hill, Ben Best, and Danny McBride
SIX DEGREES OF CAST & CREW
‑The title of this movie, The Foot Fist Way, is a literal translation of the phrase tae kwon do from Korean into English. Director Jody Hill is a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do. Indeed, all the TKD practitioners in the movie who aren’t Danny McBride and Ben Best are real tae kwon do students.
‑The favorite restaurant of Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) in this film is a little place called Captain Orlander’s. In the movie Observe & Report, Charlie (Jesse Plemons) works at a restaurant called Captain Orlander’s. Both were directed by Jody Hill.
‑One of the targets of Fred’s mocking is a guy called The Gentle Warrior. In the movie, he is played by Randy Gambill. Randy Gambill would reappear as the flasher Seth Rogen’s mall cop is forced to hunt down in Observe & Report. Unfortunately for him, and the world at large, he’s the sort of actor who gives his all—and bares his all—for his art.
Fred Simmons calls himself the king of the demo, meaning the king of the demonstration when it comes to his martial art of choice—tae kwon do. Unfortunately for Fred, this is a bit more self-hype than reality, as he can’t complete a demo without at least one mistake. That’s probably why he runs what martial arts fans call a McDojo in a strip mall inNorth Carolina.
He’s happy with his life, but his wife Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic) brings his world down around his ears when she reveals to Fred that she’s been cheating on him with her boss. Since Fred’s whole world is tae kwon do and his wife, without his wife he turns increasingly to his dojo and his hero, a B-movie martial artist named Chuck “The Truck” Williams (Ben Best), even going on a road trip with fellow black belt Mike McAlister (Jody Hill) and his best students Julio (Spencer Moreno)—who serves as Fred’s second-in-command—and Henry (Carlos Lopez IV) to visit Chuck and get him to do a personal appearance.
Unfortunately for Fred, Chuck’s visit may be just the thing to completely bring Fred’s life down around his ears.
Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best will be well known to people who are fans of HBO’s comedy series Eastbound & Down; they’re the same creative team behind that series. McBride is brilliant as the bombastic idiot character Kenny Powers, and he is equally excellent as Fred Simmons. Simmons is a more realistic Kenny Powers; take away the money and the actual athletic prowess of Powers and substitute in a little more Everyman, and you’ve got Fred. This is actually some of McBride’s best work as an actor, the layer of bombast hides a troubled, depressed soul struggling with insecurity. As an added bonus, Ben Best is also pretty freaking hilarious as a fake Chuck Norris, and Jody Hill’s take on an overly-serious martial arts fanatic who dresses like a martial arts movie extra crossed with Steven Seagal (right down to the greasy-slick hair and gut-hiding manner of dress).
The problem with any comedy, but especially the Hill/Best/McBride style of comedy, is that it is basically a whole bunch of random scenes strung loosely around a plot. When the movie’s comic notes hit, and they do fairly frequently, the movie is very, very funny. When the movie doesn’t work, there’s not a lot of stuff there (not to knock Jody Hill, who is a good director of character comedies). It’s pretty standard stuff, film-wise, but the verbal comedy is pretty strong. You don’t need fancy camera tricks or slow motion in a comedy to make it funny, but it can definitely help (as in the party scene).
As a first outing from a comedy crew, The Foot Fist Way is very successful. Hard to believe that McBride, Hill, and Best were all classmates at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before making this movie. You can see the genesis of what they would continue to do on their HBO series together.
If you like Danny McBride doing Danny McBride things, then you’ll probably like The Foot Fist Way. If you’ve ever taken tae kwon do lessons from a beer-bellied man with a mustache (as I did during part of the 80’s, then you’ll probably LOVE The Foot Fist Way. However, if you see tae kwon do both as a great way to stay in shape and a deadly serious killing system, you might not be so amused.
RATING – 3 distracting backfists out of 5