Fist Fight is crude and has its flaws, but is pretty entertaining nonetheless. Charlie Day gives a great performance.
Too many modern comedy films being released base their humour on any combination of constant swearing, penis and masturbation jokes around every corner as well as drug abuse; Fist Fight ticks every single one of these boxes. The new film, starring Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Ice Cube (21 Jump Street, Ride Along), has a simple premise: it’s senior prank day on the last day of a high school full of unruly students and incapable teachers. When the intimidating Mr Strickland (Ice Cube) destroys a classroom in a fit of rage, an English teacher present at the scene, Mr Campbell (Day), must choose between protecting his fellow teacher or keeping his job. To keep supporting his pregnant wife and daughter, he places the responsibility on Strickland in front of the principal which gets Strickland fired. Justifiably angered by this, Strickland challenges Campbell to an old-fashioned ‘fist fight’ in the school parking lot at the end of the school day.
There are many elements of this film which simply do not make sense. Firstly, Strickland is quite clearly a threatening bully of a teacher with extreme anger issues, who would actually be a danger to both students and teachers and should not be in teaching. Secondly, all of the teachers, grown adults, fully accept the fight which is going to take place, gossiping as much as the students do, with some even endorsing it. Strickland even states, “snitches get stitches”; these supposed adults have been reduced to children, no better than the high school students they teach. In fact, Day’s character is the only one who seems to question what on earth is going on.
As the movie progresses, it becomes a story of the feeble Campbell finding his ‘bad side’, and beginning to stand up for himself before a showdown the entire town seems to be anticipating by the end of the film. On the way, we encounter many aforementioned comedy staples: every other word is the big F, there’s an inappropriate relationship developed between a female teacher and one of the students, and several of the senior pranks involve penises in some form or other. Cheap laughs? Perhaps. Entertaining? Often, surprisingly, yes.
At the end of the day, if you can look past the flaws of Fist Fight, all of which can be pointed out within about the first twenty minutes, it is actually good fun, if not a little ridiculous at times. Sure, it’s never going to win an Oscar or go down in movie history, but comedy films like this are excellent if you’re looking for mindless entertainment (and if you can handle the relentless crudity). Charlie Day and the rest of the cast carry the film with its simple plotline and an okay script, but the acting shines through for an enjoyable hour and a half, and some of the comic timing is spot on. Faults aside, Fist Fight is just what you want if you’re looking for something silly yet funny to enjoy.
Fist Fight (2017), directed by Richie Keen, is distributed in the UK by Warner Brothers Entertainment UK Ltd. Certificate 15.