Review: ‘Fist Fight’ is a Comedy Without the Comedy

John Allegretti ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The high school in Fist Fight does not exist in our reality. It’s akin to a shadowy alternate dimension or some sort of special hell. The students run amok like gremlins and the faculty are grossly incompetent. Logic is non-existent and chaos is always present. It’s the place bad high school teachers are sent after death to experience, along with everyone who goes to see this film.

Fist Fight takes a lot of cues from Three O’Clock High, a High Noon remake set in a high school. But make a loose remake from a loose remake and your film begins to lose clarity. The plot is simple enough; meek teacher Campbell (Charlie Day) gets challenged to a fight by the violent Strickland (Ice Cube) and must take control of his life in order to stand up to Cube. The filmmakers almost certainly pitched this as Breaking Bad set in a high school, without caring if Fist Fight had one iota of that TV show’s character development.

Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, and Charlie Day in Fist Fight. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Speaking of TV shows, the cast is made up of every great small-screen actor you can think of. Charlie Day and Ice Cube are joined by Jillian Bell—a drug-addict counselor lusting after one of her students, Christina Hendricks—a psychopath who wants Campbell dead after a misunderstanding in the bathroom, and Tracy Morgan—a clueless coach who gives fighting advice on account of him being “from the streets”. Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris has a small appearance as the principal, and has to endure a multitude of end-of-the-year pranks from all those demonic seniors. The writers of this movie are either men too old to understand teenagers or a group of aliens that intercepted a fragmented broadcast of The Breakfast Club and tried to make sense of it.

Fist Fight’s biggest disappointment is that it isn’t very funny. Most of the laughs seem to be from improv between actors rather than jokes written in the script. Charlie Day and Jillian Bell have some great moments, but overall Fist Fight seems like a movie that was a lot more fun to make than what it turned out to be. The movie does have some strengths though. Director Richie Keen knows enough about cinematic language to get a few laughs with slow motion or cutting, and the funniest parts are (again) when actors improv jokes that aren’t in the script. Some of the school pranks are hilarious, and come into play later in the film as set pieces. The final fight between Day and Cube is creative enough and leads to Fist Fight’s baffling final message: violence is a great way to solve economic problems.

Charlie Day in Fist Fight. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Fist Fist is actually closer to Batman v. Superman set in a high school. The movie only wants its two leads to fight without trying to find a good reason why. It never unpacks any of their motivations and has an ending that rivals BvS’s ridiculous twist. Fist Fight makes you wonder the last time a studio made a good comedy. Writing good jokes isn’t impossible, and tons of indie productions succeed, so how do films like Fist Fight turn out the way they do? Maybe it’s because studios are so distracted by market research, Apple product placement, and making hashtags that they don’t bother to try and make audiences laugh anymore.

Overall Grade: D+

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