Fist Fight is the kind of film that you won’t want to enjoy, but you just might, even though you’ll want to detest it with every fibre of your being. And this is its dark art – it takes a simplistic and under-conceptualised plot, and manages to turn it into a not completely hateable movie. A potentially damning statement, sure, but fair nonetheless – let’s face it, Richie Keen wasn’t trying to direct Shakespeare. Fist Fight succeeds in its basic task of trying to get a few easy laughs – and in this, it’s effective.
Make no mistake, Keen follows the current comedic trope of using improvisational comedy (which, as we all know by now, Charlie Day is very good at) to make the movie as random as physically possible. And it’s these “what the hell?” moments that will make you laugh, rather than anything of substance. But in terms of comedy, it does its job.
The main issue here is that the film then gets a little ambitious and attempts to make a comment on a damaged and underfunded school system. This isn’t the time or place for that campaign, and honestly, it’s this that ends up grating more than anything else. But with reliably strong (and somewhat wasted) performances from Day and Ice Cube, the end product isn’t a total disaster.
If Fist Fight’s only crime is overusing the improvisational tone popularised by films such as Horrible Bosses, we can probably look past this. But that’s not to say that it’s not time for comedy scripts to go back to being just that – scripted. There’s no doubt Fist Fight will find an audience in the half-baked Friday night film masses, but it’ll never be a comedy classic.
CAST: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell
DIRECTOR: Richie Keen
WRITERS: Van Robichaux, Evan Susser
SYNOPSIS: When one schoolteacher gets the other fired, he is challenged to an after-school fight.