Come for the comedy. Stay for the swearing children. Leave feeling empty inside.
Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is a kindly English teacher who informs the school principal (Dean Norris) of the violent behaviour of another teacher, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube). Filled with rage and betrayal, Strickland challenges Campbell to a fight after school, sending him on a frantic quest to escape his inexorable beating.
Even with the power behind Ice Cube’s intimidating line delivery, it’s impossible to suspend your disbelief, as Mr Strickland never would have gotten this job. Ever. Smashing a student’s phone is something I can picture a teacher doing, but tipping over a bookcase, breaking a television and chopping a desk apart with an axe is something else.
Strickland is essentially a criminal before the plot even begins, and it exposes the premise as being completely implausible, including his petulant response to Campbell doing the right thing. Even Campbell takes the fight way too seriously, and goes to enormous lengths to prevent a situation he could literally just walk away from. It leads him to suburban shops, jail and a pointless child’s talent show which, granted, adds necessary amounts of adventure to a stagnant story, but still leaves the movie feeling totally disingenuous. It’s difficult to enjoy any moment in Fist Fight when you consider that none of this would ever happen.
Charlie Day’s anxiousness and Ice Cube’s forcefulness steal the show, but only because all the supporting characters contribute nothing but mildly humorous quips in isolated scenes, as if they fell out of a failing Saturday Night Live sketch. The surprisingly unfunny post-movie blooper reel makes it clear that the plot is simply a foundation for scattered moments of comedy, but with a nonsensical premise and pathetic attempts at humour, Fist Fight falls short at both.
It’s ironic that this film doesn’t impart any wisdom, given the setting, however the concept of failing schools is haphazardly referenced near the end of the movie, attempting to motivate the audience into caring about the school system, even though we just saw Ice Cube get blasted with a fire extinguisher. There are a few funny moments, but the plot is just too messy to not have you leave the cinema feeling like you wasted your time. It really is like High School. I give it an E+.
Fist Fight is available in Australian cinemas from February 23
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films