The uncomfortable life, captured on film
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.
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.
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.
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