“Last day of school bitches!!”
As the first sentence to greet you on the screen, those five small words pretty much set the tone for Fist Fight. The rest of the opening scene only solidifies that first impression: Crowds of unruly students scattering around the school, undoubtedly breaking every rule in the code of conduct; kids vandalizing school property just because they can; oh-so-cool guys sliding down staircases on king-sized mattresses; partners-in-crime setting up porn in the athlete’s showcase.
It’s wild. It’s juvenile.
There’s really no getting around it. After a couple of days of reflection and desperate searching for silver linings, I’m unfortunately coming up short. Fist Fight is bad. Not in the “haha, this movie is so dumb but mildly entertaining!” way either. It’s the “I can’t believe I sat through an hour-and-a-half metro commute for this” bad.
In some ways I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering the basic plot of the movie. Sticking with the juvenile theme, Fist Fight revolves around a highly anticipated, brutal smack down between two high school teachers — total pushover Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) and may-or-may-not-be-a-murderer Strickland (Ice Cube). With both their jobs on the line, there’s a slight subplot advocating for teacher’s rights and higher funding for schools. But make no mistake: The point of the movie is two men punching each other in the face.
Although I say I shouldn’t be too surprised by my disappointment, in some ways I am. While it would be a stretch to call me a fan of Ice Cube, he’s managed to make me laugh before. As for his counterpart, I tend to find Day genuinely funny — which makes me wonder what exactly happened during both of their performances. Almost all of the jokes seemed forced, completely deviating from Day’s improvisational style of comedy featured in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. As for Ice Cube, his usual snarly, don’t-fuck-with-me-attitude character may have just been used one too many times, because almost every decision he made could have been predicted three scenes beforehand.
Despite the main characters’ failure to lay any sort of comedic foundation, its faux seriousness proved to be somewhat entertaining. The entire film is drenched in a certain level of melodrama, including everything from dramatic camera zooms to musical intensification when you know things are about to go down. I’ll admit, the contrast between such severity and the film’s ridiculousness did sometimes force a chuckle. But given that both official trailers feature that same sense of melodrama, you might find it more enjoyable to watch the 3-minute promotional item rather than the 90-minute product.