FIST FIGHT (USA/16/91mins)
Directed by Richie keen. Starring Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris
THE PLOT: The last day of school in Roosevelt High School is senior prank day, but when the pranks get out of hand and English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) manages to get history teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) fired, Strickland decides the only way to resolve their beef is for he and Campbell to fight each other after school.
THE VERDICT: On paper, the idea of Charlie Day and Ice Cube throwing down after school has tons of potential for comedy, but in reality, ‘Fist Fight’ only has that one joke, and takes its sweet time getting to it.
Charlie Day leads the cast as Andy Campbell, and although fans of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ will know that Day is a talented and funny actor, virtually none of this is on display in ‘Fist Fight’. The jokes don’t land and simply running away and lying to his wife means that Andy goes from a sympathetic character to an annoying one rather quickly. It is clear that Strickland – played by Ice Cube – was written fairly one dimensionally, and while it is clear that Mr Cube has fun with that, it is when attempts are made to round out the character and make his motivations clear that this falls flat. Christina Hendricks plays a sex pot French teacher, and while she tries – bless her – to make Ms Monet a character that defies her physical looks, and play with the comedy, this is something that Hendricks utterly fails to do. The rest of the cast features Dean Norris, Jillian Bell, Tracy Morgan, Kumail Nanjiani, Denis Haysbert and JoAnna Garcia Swisher.
The screenplay, written by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser hinges on one joke/plot point – Charlie Day and Ice Cube getting into a scrap – and anyone who is expecting anything more than that will be sorely disappointed. There is an attempt to give context with senior prank day being the catalyst and Strickland wanting someone to be held accountable for the shenanigans that go on around the school, but the entire film is spent waiting for Cube and Day to finally let their fists fly, and no amount of oiled hallways, spray painted cars or weird talent shows where little girls sing songs laden with explicit language can make up for the lack of comedy in the film.
As director Richie Keen never managed to keep the energy of the film going long enough for the attempts at comedy to land properly. There is precious little to laugh at here, since the dynamic of small guy vs scary guy with an unspecified past is one that we have seen a million times before, and there is nothing new or exciting created in ‘Fist Fight’. The comic timing of most of the actors is completely off, and there comes a point where the continuous attempts comedy become embarrassing.
In all, ‘Fist Fight’ hinges on the idea that Charlie Day and Ice Cube fighting could be funny, and spends most of its 90 minute running time trying to fill out the rest of the story in order to justify the joke of the title. None of the cast manage to actually be funny, and the comic timing, energy and motivations in the film are non-existent.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Fist Fight is one of those ‘it does what it says on the tin’ American comedies. In this case, the tin is empty and leaves a hollow ringing sound – that of a laugh-free zone.

    It’s the last day of school term and Andy (Charlie Day) is trying to avoid end-of-year pranks from the students. Colleague Strickland (Ice Cube) is the most fearsome teacher in school, but asks Andy for help when he can’t get a video to play for his class. There’s a prank going on in class, which sets off Strickland’s violent temper. They both find themselves in Principal Tyler’s (Dean Norris) office, where Andy rats on Strickland and gets him fired. Strickland isn’t going to take this lying down though, so he challenges Andy to a fist fight at 3:00pm. That’s not a request – it’s an order. Thinking that Strickland is just joking, Andy carries about his daily business. But as the hours tick by, it becomes obvious that Strickland means business. Andy is going down in front of the whole school…

    Fist Fight is a one-joke idea that might be ideal for a short film or a Saturday Night Live sketch. It features grown men behaving like children in the schoolyard and that’s the basic premise. There’s not much else driving this film. At 91 minutes, it feels overstretched anyway. There’s quite a lot of filler material here from the three screenwriters – Van Robichaux, Evan Susser and Max Greenfield. Asides are made to other, unsympathetic teachers Ms. Monet (Christina Hendricks), Holly (Jillian Bell) and Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan). Other filler material includes Andy’s pregnant wife and his daughter’s school performance. Since when do teachers wander off in the middle of the day to another school? The sheer lightness of the plot becomes increasingly evident that by the point we reach the climactic fight, it’s not much to write about anyway.

    Having worked on TV comedy, director Richie Keen’s feature debut is a mostly humourless affair. Even the obligatory end credits bloopers are more like unwanted outtakes – not even funny ones at that. Day has played the hapless nice guy in over his head before (e.g. Horrible Bosses), but he needed to borrow some of that Jason Bateman-style weariness and no-nonsense attitude. Ice Cube is just Ice Cube – typically surly and ready to smash something at any moment. Surely he must be tired of being typecast by now? Good actors like Hendricks and Bell are wasted with one-note roles that can also be described in one word – alluring and lusty respectively. While it’s not an outright stinker, Fist Fight never struggles out of its pit of mediocrity. It’s a dim-witted and unmemorable, the kind of film that might pass the time on an airplane. D grade for all concerned. Must try harder next time. **