Director: Richie Keen
Writers: Van Robichaux (screenplay), Evan Susser (screenplay)
Stars: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan
Fist Fight is a pretty simplistic comedy directed by Richie Keen. It follows the escapades of the cowardly teacher and all round nice guy, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day); as he sets about having a quiet last day of term at the underfunded and wild high school where he works. A run in with the disciplinarian Strickland (Ice Cube); soon puts an end to those fanciful plans and he find himself having to concoct a plan to avoid a teacher on teacher fight at the end of the day.
Things get off to a bad start for Andy as a student steals his parking space and declares that its ‘senior prank’ day and they don’t get much better upon his arrival inside. The students are running amok and the teachers aren’t even attempting to curtail it with interviews and potential job cuts dominating the agenda for them. The pranks continue, this time I’m the form of lewd messages and drawings on the black board, as Campbell teaches his first class of the day. The film then introduces History teacher, Strickland, as he reprimands a student for putting the schools ‘1971 championship bat’ in the trash. The film makes it pretty clear that he takes no nonsense and is one of the few teachers that commands even a modicum of respect.
There’s then an awkward moment in the staff room as Campbell tries his best to metaphorically tip toe round Strickland, preparing an Americano for him on the new coffee machine and earning himself the nickname ‘light roast’ for his troubles. It’s this seeming earlier proficiency with technology and an indebted Andy, saved from being covered in paint by the latter, that inadvertently kickstarts the beginning of a nightmare day for our main protagonist. Strickland requests some assistance from the calamitous Andy, asking him if he could try and fix a faulty TV in his History class, which bizarrely ends with a frenzied, frustrated axe attack on a desk, after a run in with a pranking student who continuously switches it off using his and a classmates phone. His phone was smashed up against the wall after being caught, hence the need for the classmates. This earns the two teachers a meeting with Principle Tyler (Dean Norris); who seeks the truth, the culprit for the axe attack and issues a frank ultimatum to the two.
Under pressure with a heavily pregnant wife and not in a position to be losing his job, Andy grasses in Strickland, after being told one of them would be sacked, admitting that he was responsible for the entire thing. He almost immediately realises his mistake, trying to backtrack and talk Tyler out of sacking the volatile Strickland, but this falls on death ears. Outside the office, Campbell is told in no uncertain terms that he’s getting the shit beat out of him at 3pm in the parking lot. This of course causes a blind panic in the non-confrontational Andy and he quickly sets about thinking up a myriad of different plans and solutions to avoid having to face his new nemesis. Some of which include; getting the student involved in the earlier attack to change his story, but not before he blackmails the hapless Andy for a MacBook Pro; and planting drugs in Strickland’s office on the advice of the sex obsessed Holly (Jillian Bell), which only succeeds in getting both arrested.
Andy finally decides to meet his fate, following several failed attempts at stopping the conflict and change of hearts by Strickland. This epiphany occurs after he finally grows a pair and confronts his bosses on the matter of funding and the cutbacks the school is facing. The fight itself is as ridiculous as you’d imagine it to be and a little long winded. Like a scene from Bottom, the violence is of course completely unrealistic and involves a plethora of different weapons and even a car wind shield, unlike that great show though, this lacks the clever wit and humour to get away with it. Ultimately, Campbell is a fighter in the Cool Hand Luke mould, staying in there on pure determination and willpower, as he gets battered from pillar to post. He dishes some unintentional damage out himself, but eventually gets KO’d anyway. The pair kiss and makeup immediately afterwards as Strickland drives Andy up to the hospital to be by his wife’s side as she gives birth to their baby.
Whilst the humour was at times a tad childish and not massively funny, there was a couple of ok performances and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t laugh at least once. It was a rarity however. Charlie Day was actually quite good in his role as the hapless, selfish, cowardly Andy. His high pitched rants and increasingly annoyed stance with Holly’s randiness and the student blackmailing him was genuinely about the most funny thing in this film, which may be a damning indictment. Ice Cube was decent enough too though his transformation into a bully from a strict disciplinarian made no real sense. Dean Norris was reasonable in his short cameo as the Principle and I’ll give a couple of honourable mentions to the socially inept, wannabe police officer, Mehar played by Kumail Nanjiani and Alexa Nisenson as Ally, purely for that profanity littered, rap song, she performed at the children’s music show.
I can’t really be buttering this up as anything special. It’s a decidedly average attempt at a comedy and probably should have went straight to DVD. The story is basic and not particularly engaging, the jokes are extremely lazy and the majority of them aren’t funny. Thankfully, some of the performances make up for this in a small way, but I wouldn’t really be recommending this to anybody. There’s much, much better films to watch, especially comedies, out there.