Fist Fight is the new comedy film director Richie Keen and stars Charlie Day and Ice Cube as two teachers in a chaotic American public school who wind up getting in a fight after one of them gets fired.
The whole film plays out over the last day of school, with mayhem ensuing from a host of pranks being played by the students. Charlie Day’s Andy Campbell through the process of potential job loss, his daughter being unhappy at school, and the threat of a fight from Ice Cube’s Mr. Strickland learns to stand up for himself. For a comedy film with a very basic premise it’s not a bad character arc, and is executed fairly well. What doesn’t work though is Strickland’s motivations behind the fight, which are tied in with what I assume was an attempt to make a message about American public school system. This completely falls flat, and when Strickland explains what he wanted out of the fight, it was nearly a laughable moment for the wrong reasons.
The humour in the film from writers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, which was presumably helped by the comedic talent assembled in the film, is very hit and miss. Some of the more absurd parts of the comedy, particularly in the pranks is pretty funny. But a little too often the film falls back on sex humour and swearing. The actual titular Fist Fight is good pay off in the film, and is very funny and well thought out. Charlie Day is the principle comedic actor in the film, and as you’d expect with him he makes Campbell a very endearing and easy to side with character, whilst being capable of being very funny in a self deprecating kind of way. It’s a mix that he has perfected on Its Always Sunny, and is essentially playing the same character but more intelligent and principled.
Ice Cube gives you exactly what you would expect from an Ice Cube role. He’s quick to anger and intimidating to the other characters. He’s made a niche playing that role, and doesn’t really deviate from it in Fist Fight. The film also features Tracy Morgan in his first role in a couple of years. The SNL Alum, along with Kumail Nanjiani and Jillian Bell are the principle comedic supporting actors. Nanjiani in particular is very funny, and scenes with him are some of the film’s high points. I think they are all talented comedians, but the material isn’t always there for Morgan and Bell. Two actors not so know for comedies are Christina Hendricks, who is hilarious as a crazy teachers, and Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, who plays the tightly wound Principle.
From the trailers I really wasn’t expecting much from Fist Fight. It certainly exceeded my expectations, but is still a very uneven film. Whilst it is very funny at times and packed full of comedic talent, it can’t deliver throughout.