91 min. | R
Schools such as the one in Fist Fight surely do not exist, which makes this movie a crass, unrealistic, and unfunny look at a high school that’s truly out of this world. Sure, crass and unrealistic can work in a comedy. But Fist Fight is in fact most pathetically inept when it attempts so-called “humor.”
Roosevelt High is not a place you want to send your kids or be employed. Most of the movie takes place on the last day of school. Teachers have checked out, seniors seem to be trying to get expelled. Students are watching porn, destroying water fountains, harassing the security guard, masturbating in the bathroom, etc.
Meanwhile, teachers face the added pressure of having to interview to secure their jobs for next year. So everyone, including mild-mannered Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day), has stopped trying to enforce school rules. Except for the deeply feared Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube). He demands discipline. When he speaks, kids listen. Because if they don’t, he’ll destroy their desk with an axe as they’re sitting in them. He does this. On a day he’s supposed to interview to keep his job. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
When Campbell and Strickland are called to the principal’s office, Campbell infuriates the much tougher Strickland, who then challenges his meek colleague to a fight after school. So begins an inane, humorless and labored series of events that allow Ice Cube to act angry, Charlie Day to act like a scared sissy, and Christina Hendricks to play a sadistic teacher. Said events include: planting drugs, a horse on meth, a little girl singing explicit lyrics, soliciting a teen for sex, blackmail, extortion and beatings.
Only one comedic bit works in all this misfire: Before the fight, Campbell is told of Strickland’s past, which is the stuff of urban legend. The stories can’t all be true, but if even one of them is, Campbell is screwed. Among them: Strickland killed Saddam Hussein’s two sons, he was a gang enforcer, and he plays the piano. It’s a clever, effective montage. Too bad the movie didn’t have more of this kind of originality.