time for Tae Kwon Do, or more appropriately
its translation, “Foot Fist Way.”
How does one begin to describe Fred Simmons (played by Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express scene stealer Danny McBride)? From the highbrow evaluation of the man as “the type of blustery, provincial narcissist who is always putting his foot in his mouth and absolutely loving how it tastes,” as Nathan Lee offered in The New York Times to the more straightforward call-it-like-he-sees-it approach offered by Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers who sums him up in two words — “loudmouthed bully” — there’s no way of getting around the fact that McBride and his co-writers Ben Best and Jody Hill have created one unforgettable character in their film The Foot Fist Way.
In my eyes (and I'm sure I'm not alone), he’s the white trash version of Ricky Gervais’ character David Brent from BBC’s The Office. In fact, had Brent been not only real but had a twin from whom he was separated at birth — I’d lay odds on the fact that it would be none other than Fred Simmons.
The self-centered Tae Kwon Do instructor with delusions of grandeur runs a low-level suburban studio and recruits students as “The King of the Demo” in local North Carolina parking lots along with his sycophantic youthful sidekicks Julio (Spencer Moreno) and Henry Harrison (Carlos Lopez). Moreover, Simmons spends most of his time acting in ways that would give Miss Manners a heart attack. With virtually no filter from his head to his mouth, he is also prone — like David Brent — to making extremely unethical and unprofessional requests and comments of and to his students. Whether it’s nearly sending an elderly lady to the morgue after instructing a young man to come at her with all he has since he questions Simmons’ methods, wailing on children, telling one gentleman who balks at the prices that he’s fat and feminine or blaming his sidekicks when he messes up in his routine by addressing their lack of confidence, Simmons is — much like David Brent — the boss from hell still clinging to a championship title won in Vegas years earlier.
After he’s cheated on by his bimbo wife Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic), a woman who defends granting sexual favors to fit in by saying she was as "Myrtle Beach drunk" as their beach-like home décor, Simmons goes off the deep end. And although anyone with half a brain saw the Suzie debacle coming a mile away as she’s fond of wearing skin tight leotards and off the shoulder Flashdance apparel to church, photocopying her “naughty bits” at work and making a ranked list of coworkers who would be the most likely to freak out and go on a shooting spree, we quickly realize that mate-wise, she’s probably the best a guy like Simmons could do.
But that doesn’t prevent him from attempting to play the field such as in an excruciatingly Office-like scene wherein he comes on to one young woman (in a manner similar to Brent) by saying that since he already has all of her personal information like phone number and address, there’s no real need to go through the “weird schematics” of actually asking her out. However, what he fails to realize is that perhaps it wasn’t the biggest turn-on that the married Simmons was the very same man who freaked her into signing up for lessons by discussing that her admiration of yoga and meditation never saved “anyone from a gang rape type situation.”
The film, which is divided up into the admirable, selfless, and peaceful tenets of Tae Kwon Do (which translates literally to “foot fist way”) has loads of fun showing the irony of a man like Simmons who embodies the polar opposite of his teachings. The film is beyond hilarious and even far more so than Napoleon Dynamite, the film to which it’s most likely compared. Yet for roughly the first half, once other subplots begin to overpower the madness of David Brent… er, I mean Fred Simmons and he takes to the road with his intense and possibly psychotic friend Mike (director Jody Hill) to meet their idol, Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (a hilarious Ben Best playing a Chuck Norris/Steven Seagal hybrid), the film loses some of its momentum.
Far better off when it was a martial arts styled version of The Office than as an impromptu road film, the last twenty minutes falls into intense mediocrity during a horrifically vulgar tell-off to Suzie as Simmons literally pisses away their relationship through a superfluous contest montage between Simmons and The Truck. Then — making one rank Dynamite above it for its more consistently funny tone — Foot at least refuses to go out without a fight. Serving up some truly quotable lines—especially from The Truck who makes strange propositions like “Who wants me to see me with my shirt off?” and confronts Simmons’ group with “you think it’s cool to just come into my party and beat up the band?” before admitting that he himself finds it awesome, it will be the type of film to gain even greater cult status when it kicks DVD shelves on September 23.
Proudly using Roger Ebert’s assessment that “children should not be allowed with a mile of this film,” as a selling point in a sticker on the box, the underground, cult comedy hit The Foot Fist Way -- made “for two cents” and “shot in 19 days” — has made its long journey from the Los Angeles Film Festival to theatrical release and DVD distribution thanks to the ardent support of two die-hard fans, namely Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Their love for the film is so resolute that it’s even the major narrative thread running throughout the hysterical green band version of the film’s trailer they posted on their rousingly hilarious and irreverent website Funny or Die (a.k.a. the more consistently comedic answer to YouTube) that you can see below.
View the Trailer
While it will be widely available for rental, director Jody Hill’s movie from Paramount Vantage and MTV Films will be exclusively for sale at Best Buy. Loaded with bonus footage that salvages some of its weaknesses including commentary by Hill and McBride, bloopers, English, French and Spanish subtitles, and 5.1 surround sound, the widescreen DVD also provides twenty extended and/or deleted scenes and an alternate ending for Simmons’ devotees to explore.
While it’s uneven at best, when the film works, it really works, sending you into hysterics by the frankly matter-of-fact and deadpan delivery by a scarily convincing McBride who elevates this film and makes quite a name for himself, leading to future work alongside some of Hollywood’s funniest men in Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express. Although David Brent would be green with envy, no doubt Fred Simmons is proud to keep kicking ass to a much larger audience who will eagerly seek out this little indie that could.