When an entire film revolves around a teacher challenging another to a fight in the school parking lot you hope it’s made in a way that’s actually engaging. Unfortunately for Fist Fight this plot has nothing else to it and with Ice Cube playing his usual badass self on screen opposite Horrible Bosses’ Charlie Day, even their performances aren’t enough to make this movie a hit.
Taking place on the final day of classes for seniors at Roosevelt High School the film immediately sets up chaos, with toilet rolls being slung around, kids sliding down the stairs on mattresses and a laptop playing a dirty video set up in the school’s trophy case. Tame English teacher Andy Campbell (Day) notes to himself, “Today is going to be a bad day,” as he enters the hallway surrounded by excitable teenagers, but strict (and rather scary) history teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) quickly puts a dampener on things as he’s the only person fierce enough to stand up to the kids.
Things are tense on the faculty as the school board is making cuts, with several staff members already let go by the time Campbell arrives to work. He rallies guidance counsellor Holly (Jillian Bell) and Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan) to discuss their situation as they all await meetings with Principal Richard Tyler (Dean Norris), and what’s even more worrying for Campbell is that his wife (JoAnna Garcia) is expecting their second child imminently.
When Strickland saves Campbell from a paint-based prank he decides to repay the favour by looking at Strickland’s ‘broken’ video player. All hell breaks loose though when it’s discovered a student is controlling the TV and Strickland starts to launch things across the room before pulling out an axe, landing both men in Tyler’s office with a threat to let them both go if truth doesn’t come out. Being the weak character he is Campbell quickly points his finger at Strickland, who is then fired and challenges his enemy to – you’ve guessed it – a fist fight in the school parking lot at 3pm.
What could have been a silly, enjoyable comedy is actually a painful, cringeworthy watch as few laughs are to be had, especially at Bell’s vile alter ego who is set on sleeping with her students. Joking about underage sex? A bit of a step too far, and it only gets worse when Holly turns out to be a crystal meth addict too. Absolutely none of her lines are humorous, as are none of Christina Hendricks’ as drama teacher Miss Monet (she’s had a bad run at comedy roles so far).
Ice Cube meanwhile is back in a tough-guy role he’s familiar with and although he is good at it, the act is starting to wear thin now after the Jump Street movies and Ride Along films. And, again, his character is so unlikeable and violent that you don’t actually want to give him any attention.
What might be the only impressive performance in this movie is from youngster Alexa Nisenson as Campbell’s daughter Ally, who gives an outstanding rendition of Big Sean’s I Don’t F**k With you as part of a talent content, explicit language and all.
In a stand-off between Fist Fight and the public, it looks as though the former may not come out the successor.
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