Starring: Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic, Jody
Hill, Collette Wolfe. Rated R.
Fred Simmons is a crude caricature
of a human being, boorishly oblivious and misanthropic in his dealings with his
adulterous wife (Mary Jane Bostic) and the students at his Tae Kwon Do academy.
If there’s anything to like about him – and that’s a big if – it is the
unquestioning (and more than a little bewildering) passion he brings to his
craft. As a martial-arts instructor and self-proclaimed “master of the demo,”
he preaches the warrior’s code but rarely exhibits any discipline of his own.
played by Danny McBride (Hot
Rod), who sports a close crew cut and
prominent mustache to complement his 1,000-yard stare, Simmons is the kind of
stupefying, yet strangely charismatic misfit who will likely invite comparison
to another anti-social dweeb, Napoleon Dynamite. Both are narcissists, crass
and cringe-worthy. But while Napoleon’s journey was sweet and oddly uplifting,
Simmons’ odyssey, with all its setbacks and abject humiliations, is far more
Perhaps that is what attracted
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the comedy-writing duo responsible for Anchorman and Talladega Nights,
to The Foot Fist Way, a no-budget
shot over 19 days in North Carolina and first screened two years ago at the
Sundance Film Festival.
It was their patronage that earned
first-time director Jody Hill, McBride and Ben Best (on hand as a hard-partying
Chuck Norris type in need of an attitude adjustment) their deal with MTV Films,
and that’s a good thing. Despite its occasionally sluggish pace and dour tone, Foot
Fist Way is wickedly profane and very
funny, a welcome oddity during a summer dominated by heroes of a less
It’s also a showcase for McBride,
who never so much as hints at being in on the joke. Sure, he’s ridiculous, but
he’s not lacking in conviction. He is the center of his own universe, however
uninformed it might be, casually offering up mystifying observations (“Dentistry?
I can’t even believe that’s something that’s real.”) in his trademark deadpan.
McBride sells the character with a straight face at all times, making it that
much harder to watch when Simmons settles into full-fledged train-wreck mode.
By then, it's
hard not to feel a dash of sympathy for this hapless buffoon, especially when he catches his wife and longtime hero (Best)
in the act. Beneath all the macho bluster, Simmons has a heart, though you'd never know it as he loudly encourages one of
his more vicious pupils to pummel a senior citizen, simply because fighting hard is what you're supposed to do, always. That
is Simmons' charm and his curse – as a relentless scrapper in a world intent on beating him down, his
spirit and perseverance are eclipsed only by his utter lack of a clue.