In 10 Words or Less
The uncomfortable life, captured on film
Loves: Good indie films, mockumentaries, comedies
Likes: Martial Arts films, Will Farrell
Dislikes: Inconsistent films
For a supporting actor, it would be hard to have more buzz than Danny McBride. Memorable turns in Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder have made him into some kind of comedy lucky charm, capitalizing on his Everyschlub persona, and honestly, the fact that he looks kind of silly. But despite the high-profile gigs, all of the heat he's got at the moment is thanks to a little homemade film called "The Foot Fist Way," that serves as a 82-minute intro to the man who made Will Ferrell sit up and take notice.
McBride plays Tae Kwon Do teacher Fred Simmons, a small-town martial artist with a strip-mall studio where he teaches kids and a handful of damaged older students the principles of the discipline, as taught to him by the head of American Tae Kwon Do (whose commercial he uses as his own pitch, noting that that's where he studied.) Fred isn't the finest instructor (nor is he blessed with the best students) but things spiral when he learns his trashy wife Suzie got handy with her new boss. Spinning out of control, his life falls apart, and he starts to take his anger out on his charges and hit on his female students.
That's the majority of the film in a nutshell, as you see what it's like to be mediocre and not realize it, only to snap when the reality of your life roundhouse kicks you in the face . It's essentially a feature-length version of the awkwardness delivered by "The Office," just without the many laughs the Scranton group brings. That's not to say there aren't funny parts to the film, but most of them are embarrassing even to the viewer, like watching an elderly woman get punched in the face or a man fail at the one thing he feels he's good at. There's certainly comedy to be found in observing the pathetic, but at some point, you have to look away, which is something "The Foot Fist Way" just refuses to do.
Considering how ultra-low-budget the movie is, (and it really looks it) setting it up as a mockumentary would have been perfect, as the thing the film does best is making the world of Fred Simmons feel disturbingly real. In fact, for first 10 minutes or so, I thought it was a mockumentary, due to the detached feel of the camera, which just seems to be in the moment. It was believable that this guy would allow a camera into his life and not realize how bad it would look.
That all goes by the wayside though, when Simmons and his creepy pal Mike (played with stone seriousness by director Jody Hill) hit the road with two of Fred's star pupils to meet his idol, martial arts star Chuck the Truck (co-writer Ben Best.) What was a unique profile in failure becomes a pale, small-town version of old kung-fu films mixed with Bad News Bears-style underdog sports movie, complete with a training montage and a climactic face-off. After being so ridiculous for the first half of the film, going in this direction felt off-putting and, worst of all, unrealistic (even it had been over-the-top for the setting.) Part of the problem is now you are asked to take Fred somewhat seriously, and no matter what setting he's in, that's pretty much impossible.
The one-disc release is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a static, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film, adjust the set-up, check out special features and select scenes. Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 English and Spanish tracks, while subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, along with closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks like the low-budget film it is, with a hefty amount of grain, a somewhat soft image, lacking in color, and decent, though slightly dull color. On the plus side, there's no real issues with digital artifacts, though some minor dirt can be seen in areas.
There's nothing much to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as the dialogue is center-channel focused, and the side and rear speakers just enhance the '80s-style synth music in the film. It doesn't seem like there's anything coming over the bass channel, not that it was expected. The film just doesn't demand much of a audio presentation.
First up is a feature-length audio commentary with McBride, Hill and Production Designer Randy Gambill (one wonders were Best was for the track.) Much like the film, this is a couple of friends hanging out enjoying themselves. As such, they have a very natural chemistry in talking about the movie, sharing details about the production of the film, with McBride doing a nice job moderating the track by asking questions and bringing up things to talk about, though they occasionally get caught describing what's happening. The only negative is that Gambill seems to be off-mike, which makes it a bit hard to hear him,
When I saw there's a 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, I was intrigued at the chance to see how a severely low-budget film like this is made. But it's not that kind of featurette. What it is is 25 minutes of artsy sepia-toned on-set footage, with a trippy music soundtrack. If this had run about five, maybe six minutes, it would have been a neat little featurette. At 25 minutes, it's quite excessive.
Cut footage makes up the rest of the extras, including 2:12 of blooper footage from two scenes were McBride (and Hill) get the giggles and have trouble getting through the dialogue. Up next is 20 additional scenes, running over 30 minutes, from all over the film, many of which probably should have been in the final film, if only for the twisted laughs they provide. The same goes for an alternate ending that's available here, which would have made the movie for me if it had been part of the film. It would have easily raised the rating of this film a level.
There are also a selection of previews to watch, though no trailer for this movie.
The Bottom Line
I thought I would enjoy The Foot Fist Way, but honestly, it's just too uneven and populated with irredeemable characters who are difficult to embrace, though I think I understand what Ferrell found interesting about the movie, because it's the kind of realistic awkwardness that's been fun elsewhere. The DVD looks and sounds like the indie film it is, and has a surprising amount of extras, though they aren't going get more than one look. If you like your movie heroes to believe in themselves way too much and fall real hard, you might get a kick out of this flick, but it's not exactly a feel-good time.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.