“Fist Fight” really wants to be a youthful, raunchy comedy in the worst way possible; if you’re not paying attention it kind of resembles one.
At one point a little girl performs Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck with You” at a talent show. At another point, a guidance counselor casually discusses her attempts to bone one of the teens at the high school where she works. Meanwhile, “Workaholics’” Gillian Bell throws around the word ‘meth’ in a way that suggests the filmmakers think the word is funny enough in and of itself. Sort of in the way comedies used to throw around the word ‘crack’ 15 years ago.
But, for all of its strained attempts at edgy hipness, “Fist Fight” feels decidedly old. In “Fist Fight’s” eyes, these damn kids today are out of control. In fact, they’re not kids, they’re punks (shakes cane)! And it’s all because of these so-called teachers (more like overpaid babysitters) and their ‘everybody gets a trophy’ mentality.
Why can’t we bring back corporal punishment?
Sass mouth would be reduced significantly if teachers were just allowed to let their fire axes do the talkin’. At times “Fist Fight” feels like it was written by that neighbor who yells at you from their bedroom window because you were standing too close to their nephew’s car.
In “Fist Fight” Charlie Day plays a spineless English teacher who allows the students and faculty of a decaying Georgia high school to walk all over him. Ice Cube, on the other hand, plays an intense, possibly psychotic history teacher who isn’t above attacking students with a fire axe.
During the last day of the school year — which inexplicably not only coincides with “Senior Prank Day” but with the faculty forced to re-interview for their jobs after extreme, department-wide budget cuts – Day rats out Cube after he severely disciplines a student.
Cube, who, at least initially, was planning on “going postal” on the school administration, instead refocuses all of his anger on Day by challenging him to a fist fight after school. Day, in turn, tries everything he can to get out of it, including, bribing the student who was attacked by Cube with a Macbook Pro in order to get him to retract his complaint, framing Cube for possessing drugs and tricking Cube into fighting a white supremacist instead.
None of it works but along the way Day learns to stand up for himself and blah, de, blah, de, fart, fart.
Taking place in a world where a teacher is allowed to stay on school grounds after making terroristic threats and is caught attacking a student with an axe, “Fist Fight” seems to view Day’s reluctance to fight an unstable switchblade wielding man who thinks coffee machines work when you shout at them as the cowardly acts of a craven pussy. In what weird cynical universe is a person’s 911 call met with mocking laughter?
Granted, “Fist Fight” is a comedy, but shouldn’t some part of it be grounded in reality? Why is the faculty re-interviewing for their jobs during a school day and why are actual classes conducted on the last day of school? If every teacher is under review, why do they seem to come and go from their jobs whenever they please and why do they curse loudly in front of the students?
Absolutely nothing makes sense in this movie and first-time feature filmmaker Richie Keen exacerbates things with his meandering, improvisatory pacing. Unlike its obvious inspiration, the semi-cult favorite “Three O’Clock High,” there’s no real sense of time in “Fist Fight.”
Things basically happen until they don’t. Although a mere 91 minutes, “Fist Fight” seems twice as long.
Luckily, even though the premise is flawed and the screenplay sloppy, “Fist Fight” is at the very least blessed with a strong cast. As in the grimly unfunny “Ride Along” movies, Cube commits eerily to his character and gives a far funnier performance than the movie deserves. In supporting roles, “Breaking Bad’s” Dean Norris and “Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks are both underutilized but amusing in their glorified cameo roles. And even though Bell’s oblivious weirdo schtick is getting tired, it’s still not nearly as tired as the schtick her “Workaholic’s” cohort Adam Devine still forces down our throats.
To be fair, “Fist Fight” could be worse but not by much.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Christina Hendricks, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell
Director: Richie Keen
Weekender Rating: WW 1/2
Length: 91 minutes