American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The hero of "The Foot Fist Way" is loathsome and reprehensible and isn't a villain in any traditional sense. Five minutes spent in his company and my jaw was dropping. Ten minutes and I realized he existed outside any conventional notion of proper behavior. Children should not be allowed within a mile of this film, but it will appeal to "Jackass" fans and other devotees of the joyously ignorant.
The hero is named Fred Simmons. He's played by Danny McBride with a cool confidence in the character's ability to transgress all ordinary rues of behavior. Fred runs a tae kwan do studio. He has the instincts of a fascist. His clients are drilled to obey him without question, to always call him "sir," to respect him above all others. Some of his clients are 4 years old. He uses profanity around them (and to them) with cheerful oblivion.
To a boy about 9 years old, named Julio, he explains, "'People are s#!t. The only person that you can trust is me, your tae kwan do instructor." Julio needs consoling after he's disrespected by little Stevie, who is maybe a year younger. To teach Stevie respect, Fred beats him up. Yes. There are several times in the movie when Fred pounds on kids. He doesn't pull his punches. Most people in the audience will wince and recoil. I did. Others will deal with that material by reasoning that the fight stunts are fake and staged, their purpose is to underline Fred's insectoid personality, and "it's only a movie."
Which side of that fence you come down on will have a lot to do with your reaction. A "zero star" rating for this movie could easily (in my case, even rapturously) be justified, and some fanboys will give it four. In all fairness, it belongs in the middle. Certainly "The Foot Fist Way" doesn't like Fred; it regards him as a man who has absorbed the lingo of the martial arts but doesn't have a clue about its codes of behavior. He's as close to a martial-arts practitioner as Father Guido Sarducci is to a Catholic priest. And the movie is often funny; I laughed in spite of myself.