By the time the preview screening for "The Foot Fist Way" ended, there were five walkouts. I can only assume those who walked out had expected some kind of silly romp, especially considering that Will Ferrell stamped his name on this film, practically co-signing on the movie's hilarity.
But the truth is "Fist" just may be the most outrageously unpleasant movie experience you'll have all year. (That is, if you haven't already visited the soul-damaging ride that is "Funny Games.") Cranky, cynical and enjoyably caustic, it's virtually menacing in its mission to make you laugh, even while you're grimacing in pain at what you're watching. (I couldn't help but wonder if this is the sort of film Ferrell would like to do but can't because he's a mainstream commodity now.)
When cringe-worthy comedy like this comes along, it's usually done by a British bloke, like Ricky Gervais or Steve Coogan. But, remarkably enough, "Fist" is the work of three boys with North Carolina ties: Jody Hill, Ben Best and Danny McBride.
All three wrote the script and act in it (Hill handles directing duties), but McBride is the star of "Fist." He's Fred Simmons, a tae kwon do teacher who's as boorish as he is dedicated. Tae kwon do is his life. He performs demos with his students in parking lots, hoping to wrangle prospective pupils into studying what he believes is the superior martial art.
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His life takes a tailspin when he learns his overtanned wife (Mary Jane Bostic) did some extramarital activities with her boss. Suddenly, the man who once prided himself on being in control becomes, to quote Ferrell in "Anchorman," a glass case of emotion. He goes off on his right-hand pupils. He insults people who dare question the power of tae kwon do. (He tells one guy, "If you were in prison, you'd be raped because you exude feminine qualities.") He awkwardly tries to get a rebound relationship with one of his students. The dude is an angry, weepy mess.
"Fist" is white-trash horror comedy, the kind of miserablist, mullet-covered mirth that has to be seen at least once. It's aggressively crude, not just in its plot and dialogue (more F-bombs are thrown, mostly by McBride, than high kicks), but also in its direction. It's an indie production all the way. Hill directs this thing as though he, McBride and Best scrounged whatever change they had in their pockets and found the cheapest film stock and shooting locations possible.
However, if you can take sitting through a movie where a man can't stop making an idiot out of himself for an hour-and-a-half, you just might be amused by what you're witnessing. You may also get a sick kick, as I did, watching this guy go through one embarrassing, calamitous affair after another -- guess what happens when he leaves his wife and his idol, a washed-up, dirtbag action hero named Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (played by Best), alone in his house -- and seeing if the audience will stick with it.
McBride's Simmons is shockingly oblivious to his own imbecilic nature and practically in denial about how unimpressive he is as a man and as a tae kwon do master. (The man has a gut, for God's sake!). And yet, whenever he puts on his gear, complete with that determined look in his eyes, you stay with him right to the end. Credit the despicable diligence of McBride for embodying a character you're fascinated by even when you begin to loathe the sight of him.
Basically a movie about the rampant ugliness that surfaces when a man realizes he isn't awesome after all (every man's worst nightmare -- is it not?), "The Foot Fist Way" is a lowdown, low-budget comedy that's rude, lewd and surprisingly shrewd.