'The Foot Fist Way' is a splendid indie comedy

If I had my way, every indie comedy would be done The Foot Fist Way. This profane, slap-happy and deader-than-deadpan martial arts Napoleon Dynamite stars no-names who are becoming names, cost next to nothing and says more about martial arts as they are taught and practiced in strip malls all over America than a dozen Red Belts.

And it's funnier, too.

Danny R. McBride stars as Fred Simmons, a clueless but competent Tae Kwon Do instructor in suburban Charlotte, N.C. He's a tactless, delusional, thick-eared high school graduate who equates his various belts to college "degrees" he's earned, especially to his equally limited wife, Suzie, (Mary Jane Bostic ), a woman blond and cornfed and cheap in ways that guys like.

Fred is a drill instructor on the martial arts mats, flinging little bits of Japanese jargon to his kindergarten through AARP students, imparting his wisdom to them because he's a winner, they're losers and he's all about "the tenets of Tae Kwon Do."

And then tacky Suzie cheats at an office party and Fred's world is tossed over his shoulder.

He vents about her infidelity to his (child) students. He comes on to his female (adult) students. He abuses his "instructors" and compares himself to his intellectual betters. Constantly.

"Can he break rocks with his head?"

Um, no.

His sales pitch to prospective clients doesn't emphasize the ways Tae Kwon Do is like a step class or yoga or pilates. Will "meditation" save your from a "gang rape situation? Meditate on that. Rape."

Maybe a meeting with his idol, Hollywood martial arts hunk Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (Ben Best, who co-wrote this with McBride and director Jody Hill) will set Fred right. Or maybe not.

Good comedy is often awkward, with painful silences and head-shaking moments where you hope hope hope the hero won't do-say something that will get him suckered or sucker-punched, and The Foot Fist Way manages more pain than most big-budget Hollywood laughers.

Director Jody Hill built the film around McBride's ability to bust a board, bust a move and bust our guts without breaking a smile. He is a goof, but not a broad one, more in the tradition of 40 Year Old Virgin than the comic creations of Mike Myers and Co. We know this guy, or fellows just like him. He's not surreal, far-out or "wacky." He's just odd and maybe a little pathetic.

When Fred mangles his grammar, taunts a five year-old or simply flips out and pummels a child while sparring, he's making points about all the "tenets of Tae Kwon Do" that he himself hasn't mastered.

McBride makes Fred a jerk worth rooting for and best of all, a student worth redeeming, once he himself masters The Foot Fist Way.