18 November 2008 | bob the moo
Has its moments but never delivers on its potential and comes out being only average
I came to this movie with talk of it being hilarious, brilliant and having apparently been the toast of Sundance. I didn't totally believe all the hype, mainly because that's always what the majority of such talk is, but I did have hopes that the film would be good at what it tries to do. Taking its lead from the painfully flawed David Brent in The Office, The Foot Fist Way focuses on taekwondo teacher Fred Simmons as he leads his class to be (perhaps) as good as him, fails to control his cheating wife and idolises taekwondo champion and film star Chuck "the truck" Wallace. In terms of narrative flow there isn't really much that justifies discussion because, rightly, the story is only a frame within which to put the character study of an arrogant man who has zero self-awareness. In this there is a lot of potential and accordingly the best parts of the film are not specific events or plot points but just little moments that remind the viewer what a self-important and embarrassingly pompous man we are watching.
It is not something you'll never have seen before of course and the many other variations will show you how painfully funny (and painfully painful) that this sort of thing can be, whether it is Spinal Tap or David Brent. Problem is with the Foot Fist Way is that it feels like a really good idea that has not been fully carried out. So there are moments which are both painful and funny but then there are also lots of scenes that are just surprisingly straightforward, failing to either be funny or to be insightful in regards the character of Fred. It is a shame but it does mean that the film is distinctly average. Even at a short running time of 83 minutes, the film still struggles and surprised me by feeling much longer it should have sprinted and been over before you knew what was happening.
No fault to McBride though, he feels natural and is convincing in his character. As one of those involved in the writing he does share some responsibility though because the script just doesn't give him enough to work with often enough. He is the whole film though and when he has the material then it is at its best. Bostic is a good "white-trash" cliché but is surprisingly wooden for the majority. Best's turn is funny and produces some narrative drive but also has the detrimental effect of jostling for time with the comedy character study which I thought the film should have stuck with. The style of delivery could have been different and, although some say it is overused, I think the "making a documentary" approach would have worked in the favour of the material as we have seen countless other times.
I wanted to really like this film because you can see the potential but sadly it is never fully realised. This doesn't make for a terrible film though and it does still have its moments where things work but mostly I felt like it was a big case of "close but no cigar" in regards the script and the delivery. It is OK and perhaps worth a look on television but there are much better versions of the same idea out there, many of which leave this film looking distinctively average.