“Are you fist worthy?” Not the sort of question one should ask of strangers (unless one happens to be in that particular sort of nightclub at the time), but it is a tag-line for the Series 2 DVD of Double the Fist! I was giddy with excitement when I first saw the trailer for this Australian action-comedy show… but does it deliver on the trailer’s promise? Hell yeah. The absurdity calms down a little once the main story arc kicks in, and they wind towards The Big Battle, but even then it’s still a fantastically OTT and ever-so-slightly-gory ride. The experience is almost indescribable… but dammit, Jim, I’m a writer and I have to try! Imagine the Power Rangers growing up into crazy white trash yobbos, intent on crushing “weakness” in all its forms with a magickal martial art known simply as “Fist”. As the team’s leader grows increasingly insane and megalomaniacal, his motley crew must fulfil every mission he sets them, no matter how bizarre. I don’t want to ruin all the jokes and plots, because part of the fun is in how everything unfolds like a cheese-dream, but over the course of the eight episodes they do battle with such despicable villains as mimes, mediaeval re-enactors, giant crabs, baby-eating mayors, cheap furniture manufacturers and The English. Booo!
One of my favourite “WTF!?” moments from an early episodes sees a character who is at his lowest ebb receive a visit from the ghost of a Tamagotchi pet he let die as a child. The phantom inspires him, Obi-Wan Kenboi style, to rise to the challenge using his previously untapped reservoir of “Responsibility”… which manifests itself in the form of antlers growing out of the top of his head. Of course! Most of the humour is fairly broad, with plenty of blood-soaked slapstick (several main characters die gruesome deaths, only to be resurrected Kenny-style for the next episode), mixed in with film parodies/homages, and gleeful mocking of the show’s uber-macho “heroes”. Much like the equally awesome Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, it’s a chance for unfit sci-fi/fantasy nerds to run around pretending to be action studs, while playing with the conventions of the genres that they love. In Darkplace, however, the shoddy SFX were part of the joke, as they sought to pay tribute to a bygone era of TV sci-fi shows, such as Sapphire & Steel. Double the Fist tries its best to mimic the fancy CGI set-pieces of current movies, and serious genre shows, but often falls short in a none-the-less loveable way. As the writers/directors/stars say on one of the episode commentaries, if you want to see twenty million dollars on the screen, send them twenty million dollars. Maybe the money isn’t there, but there’s more than enough invention and humour and energy and ambition to make you forget the rough edges.
To those of us raised on Home & Away and Neighbours (or even The Sullivans, echhh!), it seems odd that a show this wild could come out of Australia… but then, it’s worth remembering that The Matrix was filmed in Sydney, while Xena and Hercules were filmed over the water in New Zealand, where a chap named Peter Jackson also started out, baking alien masks in his Mum’s oven. The Fist creators happily admit to borrowing shots from Lord of the Rings, so hopefully they won’t mind me comparing their show to his earlier (funner) flicks, like Bad Taste. There’s less gross-out splatter here, but lines like “I’m a Derek… and Dereks don’t run,” or “I kick arse for The Lord!”, capture the same irreverent spirit evident in both productions.
One of the main draws for me was Hollie Andrew, who plays a recurring character called ‘Tara’. She doesn’t get as many scenes as the boys do, and despite being a super-powered robot assassin most of her fights are of the rehearse-today-shoot-tomorrow variety, but she does get to have some fun here and there. What’s refreshing about the show, seeing as how it was written and directed by men as a vehicle for their own testosterone-fuelled alter egos, is that they don’t push the exploitation angle with Tara. In fact, any time a male character tries to exert sexual power over a female character, he ends up bitterly regretting it. The only boobs on show in this series are of the hairy male variety.
Accents aside, this show could happily sit on the “cult comedy” shelf between Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh, so hopefully one of our channels over here will buy it, and the cult will grow. If it weren’t for Andrew’s role, I might never have known it existed, so I’m very happy to be ahead of the curve on this one. Much like The Sarah Silverman Program, it’s great to be able to dive into a new show without any real preconceptions about where it will take you. All hail The Fist!