By Jack Dignan
I’m not even sure where to begin when it comes to Fist Fight. It’s been a week since the screening, I’ve been embargoed ever since, and I’m still trying to comprehend the sheer stupidity of the film at hand. Cinema is an art form. It’s a medium in which people’s voices can be heard, entertainment can be shared, and a story can be told. Or, as is the case with this movie, everything can be flushed down the toilet and washed away, instead replaced with whatever the hell it is that this movie was trying to be.
The premise of Fist Fight is almost too simple to believe, and as a matter of fact, it barely needs any description. A high school teacher named Strickland (Ice Cube), who’s notorious for his brutal ways, is fired after being ratted in by fellow teacher, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day). Displeased with the course his day has taken and fuelled with genuine hatred, Strickland challenges the weak, confrontation-less Andy to a fistfight after school. And that’s about it. From here, we get a 91-minute ‘comedy’ that feels closer to three hours, achieving little and creating even fewer laughs.
Fist Fight sees TV director Richie Keen, known mostly for his work on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, transition to the big screen, taking with him the typical tricks of the trade. His directorial skills are ambitious with style, but poor in execution, often clumsy and awkward. Despite the film mostly consisting of either wide shots or medium close ups, Keen occasionally decides to do something different. Unfortunately, his influx of style rarely works, unable to create laughs or energy, and honestly just baffling the audience. The film goes from half an hour of generic, bland camera work to an intense, out of place zoom in on a character’s face. Most of the time, the way this movie’s crafted feels as though it were made for television.
Let’s take a look at the film’s cast. Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracey Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris and Kumail Nanjiani make up the star-studded cast list. Each and every one of them deserve better than this. They’re all actors who have managed to prove themselves in prior roles, whether that’s on the big screen or the little screen, yet when it comes to Fist Fight, it almost feels as if their talent has been taken advantage of. They’re big names that have been brought on to sell a movie that otherwise wouldn’t really sell, and while that may work to boost the profit, this isn’t the film these actors deserve to be in.
The best part of this film, without a doubt, is the relationship between Ice Cube and Charlie Day. The two appear to have comedic chemistry; alas it’s something that isn’t always showcased on screen. A blooper reel plays during the credits, as is to be expected with films like this one, their relationship becoming apparent. If the two were in a much better film, it could be a hit. Their conflicting personalities should lay the groundwork for a classic comedy in the making. Instead, it’s lazy, unoriginal and juvenile, every scene wasted and a majority of the jokes falling flat.
When I did laugh, although rarely was it more than a slight chuckling, it always came from those two going at each other. When paired up with the supporting cast, that’s when things got baaaaaad. Everybody tries way too hard to be funny, especially Jillian Bell who stole every scene, and not in a good way. Her character was irritable and stupid, always in your face and never allowing the other actors to have any breathing room. When she’s on screen, she gets all the jokes, and never were they funny. Oh, and how I wish I could forget that Christina Hendricks was in this movie. If you thought Bad Santa 2 was just a one off terrible comedy for her, get ready for Fist Fight. Granted, it’s not as bad, but her role is oh so painful to watch.
There’s no excuse for this film to be as excruciating as it is. None. The cast is beyond talented, always hilarious in their previous work, and while I’m not too versed with the director’s television projects, he seems to have dipped his foot into all sorts of great things. Yet, when everybody comes together for Fist Fight, it’s terrible. Absolutely terrible. Do yourself a favour and avoid this movie.
1 1/2 Stars
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