Stars: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kumail Nanjiani | Written by Van Robichaux, Evan Susser | Directed by Richie Keen
Is anyone else old enough to remember Three O’Clock High? You are? Well you might get a feeling of deja-vu watching Fist Fight. Which follows a very similar storyline, only this time it’s teachers planning to fight NOT the students!
Set on the last day of the year, Fist Fight sees mild-mannered high school English teacher Andy Campbell (Day) trying his best to keep it together amidst senior pranks, a dysfunctional administration and budget cuts that put jobs on the line. Things go from bad to worse when he accidentally crosses his much tougher and deeply feared colleague, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), who challenges Campbell to an old-fashioned throw down after school. News of the fight spreads like wildfire and ends up becoming the very thing this school, and Campbell, needed.
Essentially a star-vehicle for Charlie Day, Fist Fight is one of those comedies that is made or broken by its performances. The plot itself is slight, little more than a series of interconnected confrontations between Campbell and Strickland, Campbell and his students, Campbell and his family, Campbell and his ridiculous co-workers – be they fellow teacher or school head. Instead the film relies on the central performance of Day, whose behaviour gets more and more manic as the film hurtles head first to its climax; turning the mild-mannered, weak-willed Andy Campbell into a man with nothing to lose… And eventually a man who finds himself. Day’s character arc, whilst totally insane in terms of reality, is – in the context of this film – utterly believeable.
Meanwhile Ice Cube is… Ice Cube. Yes, despite playing to his acting strengths in comedies like Friday, here Cube trades on his tough-guy persona (in a similar fashion to his cop boss in the Jump Street films), shouting and elbowing his way through the majority of the film – stepping on all who get in his way, much like his character Mr. Strickland. I say majority as there are some points in the film – the jail set scenes in particular – where Ice Cube the ACTOR comes out, actually performing against type, albeit briefly. Special mention must also go to Jillian Bell, whose perverted, stoner of a teacher has a lot of Fist Fight‘s best lines and biggest laughs.
Of course, this is not high-brow comedy, as if any film about grown men fighting could be, but there are plenty of laughs to be had at the expense of Day and the rest of the cast – kids and adults alike. Be aware, this is a take-no-prisoners comedy that has no issues making jokes out of drugs, racism, pedophilia and more. If that kind of bad taste humour appeals then give Fist Fight a go, otherwise maybe wait for its home entertainment debut…
Fist Fight is in UK cinemas now.