Directed By: Jody Hill
Starring: Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic, Jody Hill, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez IV
Fred Simmons runs a strip mall Tae Kwon Do studio in Concord, North Carolina. He’s got a tanned, blond wife, a red Ferrari and an interestingly decorated house, the Myrtle Beach themed bedroom is particularly nice. In short he’s got it all. His only problem is himself, he’s a jerk, and one by one everything he cares about will be taken away from him. Well except the house and the studio he’s never really in any danger of losing them, but the wife and Ferrari are in serious jeopardy.
Danny McBride stars in this little gem put together by three guys and some friends from the North Carolina School of Arts and filmed in nineteen days in Concord, North Carolina. The three guys are Danny, Jody Hill and Ben Best. They all had a hand in writing the movie and all act in the movie. And what a movie. It opens up to a parking lot demonstration Fred, Danny McBride, is staging to attract new students. Fred is pumping up his star pupils, Julio, Spencer Moreno, a short stocky kid who is Fred’s instructor in training and general sidekick and Henry, Carlos Lopez IV, a tall lanky kid with a confidence problem who Fred uses to keep Julio on his toes. After pumping themselves up they go out to do the demo. Watching the demo you begin to understand that Fred sees himself as a big fish in a little pond and Fred likes it that way, Fred needs to be the big fish.
Fred is not a likable guy, he’s rude and cocky at a dinner his wife has arranged with one of her new co-workers, he proves himself to be only marginally competent as a Tae Kwon Do instructor and just a general all around jerk. Every time he appears to be doing something even slightly redeeming, like giving a student a ride home it turns out that there is some self serving reasons for his actions, like needing someone to ride shotgun while he spies on his wife. Somehow Danny gives you a reason to never quite give up on Fred. For some reason you believe that somewhere under all the bluster and arrogance is a nice guy, but in the mean time you don’t have any problem laughing at him and enjoying his little set backs.
As the story gets going Suzie, Mary Jane Bostic, reveals that she has been unfaithful with her new boss. And leaves to stay with her cousin. This is a world shaking blow to Fred and everything starts to unravel. Fred gives up on even trying to instruct his students and basically turns over the studio to Julio, who is an extremely talented martial artist but is not ready to instruct students twice his height. Fred tries to start up a wildly inappropriate romance with a student only to be rebuffed. He drives his red Ferrari around town all by himself. Before Fred has a chance to totally unravel his old Tae Kwon Do buddy Mike, Jody Hill, shows up. He’s is town because he and Fred are taking a trip along with Julio and Henry to see Chuck “The Truck”, Ben Best, the eight time World Kick Boxing Champion, star of Seven Rings of Pain one, two and three and Fred’s hero. Fred’s spirits lifted by the presence of his long time friend and the prospect of meeting his hero this trip has the potential to be the kick start he needs to get his life back in order or the last straw.
With the subject matter of the movie I expected more slapstick humor, but there is very little. The humor flows from the characters and the dialog. The dialog is hysterical, its natural but at least in Fred’s case a little bombastic. Almost as if Fred knows he’s in a movie but Fred, not Danny, has to write his own dialog. Considering the cast is nearly all non-actors or actors with little experience the acting is quite good. Spencer and Carlos who are great martial artists are also great actors, they don’t have a lot of lines but their reactions are spot on. Most of the smaller parts were friends or crew members pressed into another job, but the movie never really suffers for it. Watching the movie you can tell that there was not much of a budget, but the movie doesn’t need it. I’m sure Danny, Jody and Ben would have liked to have had more money to make the movie, it may have made there jobs easier but it wouldn’t have made a better movie. More money could not have bought them a better score, it wouldn’t have improved the script, big name actors would not have turned in any better performances. It’s quite possible that more money would have resulted in a movie not near as good as this one, because it would likely mean more meddling from where ever the money came from.
The video is presented in wide screen format. It’s not great, the lighting on exterior scenes is sometimes uneven, the darker the interior shots the more grain you notice. On the other hand it’s not bad. I didn’t notice much aliasing or moire, and nothing ever rises to the level of being distracting.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Spanish with subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The mix is good, I never found myself jockeying the volume control up and down. The score never overpowered the dialog. The dialog was always clear and legible I never found myself rewinding and turning on the subtitles to figure out what someone said.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in an Amaray case with the locking tabs on the side. The artwork is perfect. It’s striking and fits the spirit of the movie like a glove. There is an enlightening commentary with Danny McBride, Jody Hill an Ben Best. There are twenty deleted or extended scenes, some of them are quite good, Fred’s friend Mike is fleshed out quite a bit more in these deleted scenes. It really shows the discipline displayed in cutting the movie together. They are nice scenes but wouldn’t really improve the movie. Rounding out the DVD are some bloopers and the requisite previews.
It will be interesting to watch what happens to Danny McBride as well as Jody Hill and Ben Best. They have made a great movie, surely this isn’t the only one they have in them. This movie stands on it’s own but if you’ve ever dreamed of making a movie with a couple of friends and a handful of credit cards it’s an inspiration.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10