UK Release Date: 3rd March 2017
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Richie Keen
Writer: Van Robichaux, Evan Susser
Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, Tracy Morgan, Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris, Kumail Nanjiani, JoAnna Garcia, Alexa Nisenson
Synopsis: When he inadvertently gets his intimidating colleague sacked, a wimpy teacher finds himself forced to do everything he can to avoid having to fight him after the school bell rings at the end of the day.
Bad comedies are not rare, but comedies as bad as Fist Fight only come along about once a year – like a flu outbreak. The film is the latest in the depressing trend of movies that write up a thumbnail narrative premise, add a couple of lines of script and then simply cast a load of comedy actors and Saturday Night Live regulars in the hope that the stars can somehow improvise a half-decent 90-minute movie out of their botch job. Recent months have seen the likes of Office Christmas Party show just how bad this nonsense has got. In the case of Fist Fight – in many ways the nadir of the whole sorry trend – it would take a gallon of industrial cleaner and a hell of a scrubbing brush to polish this particular turd.
Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) teaches English at an unruly school and one day he witnesses his colleague Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) explode with rage in his classroom. After a tense meeting with Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), Strickland is fired and blames Campbell, challenging him to a fight after school ends. Terrified, Campbell desperately meets with gym teacher Crawford (Tracy Morgan) and guidance counsellor Holly (Jillian Bell) in an attempt to somehow wriggle out of the fight in time to meet with his pregnant wife Maggie (JoAnna Garcia) at his daughter Ally’s (Alexa Nisenson) talent show.
It’s tough to know where to begin with Fist Fight, which seems entirely unaware that a comedy film is supposed to contain jokes. There isn’t so much as a chuckle across the film’s entire running time, which makes 90 minutes feel like 900. It’s clear that the film’s set was an atmosphere geared towards creating an environment for improvisation, but unfortunately there aren’t very many fun moments, despite the talent that is clearly present in the film’s cast. The premise is wafer-thin and its set in such a bizarre environment that any comedy is squeezed out of the idea almost as soon as the opening titles appear.
The central duo are individually very solid comedic actors who have, in the past, delivered excellent, funny performances. In Fist Fight, though, they are both entirely up comedy creek without a single one-liner in their arsenal. Charlie Day’s performance essentially amounts to scurrying around the sets manically while shrieking like a castrated chipmunk, while Ice Cube simply delivers the exact caricature he himself has so brilliantly parodied in the Jump Street films. Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan, meanwhile, are witless caricatures who mainly serve for Day to scream at them wildly while they attempt to improvise something approaching comedy around all of the noise and lazy slapstick bluster.
Fist Fight is a film that has a pretty dreadful attitude to its female characters, who are either sexualised, mothers, or children, with nothing in between. The protagonist’s wife, in particular, simply serves as Chekhov’s Baby Bump, wandering around cradling her belly and waiting to serve as a crucial narrative device in the third act. Christina Hendricks, too, initially intrigues as a seemingly psychopathic, cold-hearted teacher, but she also finds herself flitting in and out of the story at random.
The whole thing just reeks of laziness. The narrative almost completely stops about halfway through so that all of the central cast can engage in an absolutely hideous slice of product placement for a famous technology product that might be the most egregious advert I’ve seen outside of a Michael Bay movie. In many ways, it’s the perfect microcosm for the entire film, which is an entirely commercial exercise that’s more interesting in squeezing a couple of pounds out of comedy fans than it is in producing a coherent and funny story. I think being repeatedly punched in the face by Ice Cube would probably be more fun.
Pop or Poop?
There aren’t any jokes in Fist Fight. There aren’t even things that are recognisably attempts at jokes. There isn’t anything to the performances other than shrieking or grimacing. There’s no improvisation that results in funny moments. There are no characters that feel in any way representative of real people. There’s no emotion. There are no thrills. There’s no joy. And, most importantly, there isn’t really a film at all.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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