Charlie Day and Ice Cube star as battling high-school teachers in a comedy that traffics in crude stereotypes, cheap laughs and boundless cynicism. Rating: 1 star out of 4.
Movie Review ★
‘Fist Fight,’ with Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Alexa Nisenson. Directed by Richie Keen, from a screenplay by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. 91 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug material. Several theaters.
What a pestilential little picture is “Fist Fight.”
It pits a stereotypical Angry Black Guy (Ice Cube, glaring and swearing) against a stereotypical Wimpy White Squish (Charlie Day, in squeaking weakling mode) whose ongoing conflict throughout the last day of school escalates to … see title.
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Whom to root for in this situation? Cube’s Strickland, a hair-trigger-tempered high- school teacher who enforces discipline with a fire ax wielded wildly in a classroom as students frantically flee? Or Day’s Andy, a mild-mannered teacher at the same school? He’s a reasonable-seeming upstanding fellow who abhors conflict, is the loving husband to a ready-to-deliver pregnant wife (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and doting dad to a cute elementary-school-age daughter (Alexa Nisenson).
Choice seems easy, right? Except Mr. Upstanding and Reasonable reveals himself to be a loathsome little weasel who, in his frantic efforts to weasel out of a ferocious after-school beating, will resort to bribing a drug-dealing student and planting drugs on his rival to set him up for a bust by the cops.
When Andy rats out Strickland for the ax episode, Ice Cube’s character informs him that “snitches get stitches,” and the stage is set for a beatdown delivered in front of a howling mob of students and faculty.
Add in a meth-dealing/student-seducing school counselor (Jillian Bell) and a student body whose last-day-of-school pranking results in a level of vandalism not seen since the fall of Baghdad, and set the whole thing adrift on a tsunami of profanity courtesy of director Richie Keen and screenwriters Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. The result? A comedy that traffics in those crude stereotypes, cheap laughs and boundless cynicism.
That cynicism manifests itself in the filmmakers’ feeble attempt to somehow redeem all this by having their two main characters rail against an educational system that lays off teachers willy-nilly in a budget-cutting frenzy.
It’s at its most cynical at the end, when all bad behavior is not merely excused, but rewarded, and all is forgiven between the two fighters.