The premise to Richie Keen’s Fist Fight is simple, to a point where it’s hard to fathom quite how it’s sustained a feature length narrative. It’s, quite literally, about two men having a fight, and in the most contrived way imaginable that is stretched out across 90 painfully unfunny minutes, with the one paramount, lone joke being that of teachers acting more immaturely than the students they educate. And believe me, it gets tedious pretty quickly.
Charlie Day plays Andy Campbell, a beleaguered high school teacher who remains perpetually bemused, and almost impressed, with the sheer level of irresponsibility in the pranks pulled by his students. Fearing his job may be on the line, and with a pregnant wife at home, life is somewhat stressful – and it’s made even more so when he finds himself in the principle’s office next to the most feared teacher in the school, Strickland (Ice Cube), after the latter smashed up a table with an axe. When the two men are threatened to be fired, in a bid to save his career, Andy tells Principle Tyler (Dean Norris) the truth, letting himself off the hook, but ensuring that Strickland is no longer in a job. So the unforgiving, angry teacher threatens his colleague to a fight after school, and word spreads like wildfire, with hundreds of kids anticipating their teachers locking horns in the playground at 3pm.
Very few actors play angry quite like Ice Cube, but this is a role we’ve seen the actor undertake several times before, with this being a near-identical performance to that of which we saw in both the Ride Along and 21 Jump Street franchises, and in spite of his comic timing, it’s one we’ve grown rather tired of. Just don’t tell him I said that. You can see what attracts him to roles of this nature however, but regrettably the same can’t be said of Christina Hendricks, who plays fellow teacher Ms. Monet – as an undoubtedly talented actress who may want to think about a change of agent. Her career in comedy has got off on a rather sour note, for following bit-part roles in Zoolander 2 and Bad Santa 2, it’s fair to say she is deserving of much better characters to indulge in.
But worse of all is the sheer lack of plot, and meaning – and of course when dealing with an irreverent comedy of this nature that’s hardly the prevalent aspect, but to be quite so thin narratively proves detrimental to proceedings. That’s not to say there’s not an attempt to provide some depth, implementing a message at the close of play on the state of education in the United States – but any such satire is lost amidst the absurdity. If there was ever a film that simply doesn’t warrant its supposedly pointed comment on modern society it’s this one, as a film that thrives in its vulgarity and surrealism – to a point where any forced attempt to inject a sense of relevance into the story is wholly undeserved.
Fist Fight is released on March 3rd