Self-delusional Tae Kwon-Do instructor Fred Simmons (McBride) is, by his own admission, the master of the demo. When his wife cheats on him, salvation comes in the form of martial arts movie star, Chuck Wallace (Best), who agrees to visit Freds dojo
Like Kevin Smith after his first foray into film, the makers of The Foot Fist Way wrapped their movie with a $70,000 credit card bill on their hands. Shot in just 19 days in the suburbs of North Carolina and then picked up and championed by Will Ferrell and Andy McKay after a screening at Sundance, The Foot Fist Way (the English translation of Tae Kwon-Do) has the grainy feel of an indie debut. Which is not to decry its charms - Simmons’ total transparency is the key to the film’s success. As a martial arts master, he has neither the meditative contemplation nor physical prowess usually associated with exponents of kung fu. What he does have, however, is a thin moustache, a red Ferrari and a boastful attitude that will have you squirming in your seat. Think Ricky Gervais as David Brent - if David Brent’s hands were licensed as deadly weapons.
As the film progresses though, it’s hard not to warm to him as his life unravels and his slutty wife Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic) cheats on him for what, you feel, might not be the first time. Turning his impotent rage on his class allows the filmmakers to set the stage for some of the funniest and most affecting moments of the film.
That he beats up on a seven year-old shouldn’t be amusing, but the scene’s use of slapstick and its shuddering denouement is both harrowing and hilarious, and typifies the total car crash that Simmons’ life has suddenly become. Though for scenes best viewed through your fingers, it’s hard to top the moment when he clumsily hits on pretty new student Denise (Collette Wolfe) who couldn’t jerk her head around any harder to avoid his oncoming kiss if someone were attempting to slip a noose around her neck.
Director Jody Hill (a real-life martial arts expert) makes a brief appearance as Simmons’ psychotic friend, Mike McAlister, who joins him for a road trip to a kung fu expo to marvel at their hero, the Chuck Norris knock-off Chuck ‘The Truck’ Wallace (Ben Best). Unsurprisingly, to everyone but Simmons, he is forced to confront his hero leading to the kind of climax we’ve come to expect from every kung fu movie, no matter how tongue-in-cheek the portrayal might be. However, the conclusion is poignant, redemptive and surprisingly upbeat - but not in the way you might imagine.
A striking low-budget debut that manages to combine deadpan one-liners, pathos, physical comedy and fighting stars.