If you were inquisitive as to what the Betsy DeVos education system would resemble, look no further than the wildly obnoxious “Fist Fight,” or you could just smash a brick upside your head; that almost sounds like a healthier practice.
On the last day before summer vacation, high school teacher Andy Campbell [Charlie Day] perseveres in order to stay focused amid countless immature senior pranks.
The rest of the teachers endure the chaotic madness with apathy, that is, except for one: Strickland [Ice Cube].
Feared by students and teachers alike, nobody would dare cross him. But when Campbell reluctantly gets Strickland fired, he’s challenged to a fist fight after school, a fight that spreads like wildfire across several social media sites.
Weary of Strickland obliterating every bone in his body, Campbell spends the remainder of the school day forging wild solutions to put an end to fight before he ultimately makes friends with the pavement.
How does one thoroughly articulate the hazardous alternate reality otherwise known as “Fist Fight?”
It clearly attempts to pay homage to the 80s screwball comedy (specifically “Three O’Clock High”), in which characters pull off ridiculous (sometimes destructive) feats and yet, are exempt from any and all consequences for their actions. Oh, how times have changed.
“Fist Fight” encompasses a world in which one could commit a grisly murder and receive a medal of commendation for doing so.
Almost instantly, the school environment comes across as disingenuous; the sets consistently include a manufactured aura at all times, as with most artless studio comedies.
A large slice of studio yuck-fests primarily exist to make a quick buck for everyone involved, throwing caution to the wind whether or not people will continue to cherish it three weeks after it’s initial release.
What? Ice Cube and Charlie Day have a free afternoon to blemish their résumé? Get ‘em to the studio lot on the double!
We’ve already established that reality is vacant from this movie, but the extreme lengths in which our two leads go to, guarantees zero support on either side of the fight.
Strickland is a closet psychopath who, when pushed to his absolute breaking point, slowly walks out of a classroom and comes rushing in with an axe, swinging the sharpened blade numerous times against a student’s desk. Had the student stayed perfectly still in his seat, I’m thoroughly convinced that Cube would have chopped the rogue texter to bits.
Of course, in this universe, he simply gets fired; there are no arrests and no charges, just a simple goodbye.
And yet, he has the audacity to preach about what’s wrong with the current political climate among school administrations.
By succumbing to blackmail and stooping to Strickland’s level, Campbell is no better, but there’s a key difference between the two; these quirks are meant to embody a progressive character arc.
“Fist Fight” is chock full of such toxic messages throughout, especially regarding a school guidance counselor who regularly proclaims her need to have sex with the students. A few gems for your reading pleasure:
“The news always leaves out the good part when the teacher seduces the student.”
“I want that teenage d—.”
“I want that teen-is.” (fill in the blanks for yourself) etc.
At one point, I surprisingly lost track of how many instances in which Jillian Bell would make reference to teenage molestation with a hearty smile. Hearing any sort of laughter in these moments made me sick to my stomach.
Not surprisingly, when it finally gets to the fist fight, it’s fairly entertaining, that is, for five minutes.
An occasional snicker doesn’t excuse this lame excuse of a film (which should have been nothing more than a passable “SNL” fake trailer) for stretching out its utterly bleak worldview for ninety minutes.
Overall, “Fist Fight” is a pile of ugly, mean-spirited nonsense that grossly misunderstands the basics of absurdism, uttering raunchy dialogue for the sake of getting a reaction.
Matt Bilodeau can be cotacted at firstname.lastname@example.org