In a world where nothing seems to go quite right, we often turn to comedy for solace. Fist Fight, directed by Richie Keen, provides us with the mindless laughter that we so enjoy.
A classic example of slapstick comedy, the film centers around two main characters: Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), a high-school English teacher, and his colleague Ron Strickland (Ice Cube). Set on the last day of class, the school is plagued by senior pranks, and the faculty deals with review meetings that often lead to termination of employment. We watch as teachers get fired one by one. Campbell, who has a daughter and a heavily pregnant wife, cannot afford to lose his job, while Strickland hates the cuts, arguing that budget cuts and lack of staff are stopping him from doing his job. During a key scene at the beginning of the film, Strickland saves Campbell from potential humiliation by cutting a trip wire that would have triggered a paint bomb. In exchange, Campbell offers to help Strickland with his uncooperative VCR. As they both fiddle with it, Campbell realises that the source of their problems is not the machine itself, but rather a meddlesome senior who uses an app to switch the TV off. When Campbell points this out to Strickland, the short-tempered teacher throws the phone at the wall, smashing it into thousands of pieces. But his technological troubles do not end there; the student is handed another phone with the same app and he continues tormenting him. As a last resort, Strickland grabs an ax and destroys the student’s desk. Unsurprisingly, both Campbell and Strickland are called to the principal’s office, and, though the pair had agreed on the importance of sticking together as teachers, Campbell snitches on his colleague so as to keep his job. Strickland is fired, and thus the premise for the rest of the film appears: the irritable teacher challenges Campbell to a fist fight, seeking revenge.
The thing is, Campbell is a wimp. Everyone knows from the get go that he will lose this fight. The question now, is how to avoid it entirely. Campbell does everything imaginable to get Strickland hired back, ultimately bribing app-student into changing his statement. But it turns out Strickland does not want his job back, he just wants to get even. Campbell then figures that his best shot is to get Strickland imprisoned before the fight. And so, he attempts to frame him for drug possession. Unsurprisingly, he has no luck there either.
In the end, Campbell snaps. He does not care about his job security, he does not care about this fight. He is sick of being pushed around and decides for once to stop being scared.
But does this film have a point? One could argue that it teaches the importance of respect, solidarity, as well as confidence. In some ways, it could be described as a coming of age film, as our main character Mr. Campbell ultimately learns how to be a grown-up and stand up for what he believes in.
It arguably shows just how broken the public school system can be. Here, administrators clearly focus more on money than actual education, deciding to let Campbell keep his job only because they are not allowed to make more cuts. The teachers themselves have become so apathetic that they let students get away with almost anything, which we can see with the senior pranks: genitalia mowed into the baseball field, a racehorse hopped up on meth running through the school, the principal’s car painted pink and parked in a hallway,...
However, that is most definitely not the central appeal to this film. It is wacky, hilariously crude, and all around ridiculous. It provides much sought comic relief, and I guarantee that you will spend every minute of this film laughing. From the excessive student pranks, to the guidance counselor who thinks that meth is a gateway drug, to the 7-year-old singing Big Sean’s “I Don’t F*** With You”, the film is a scream. And how could it not be when it includes the likes of Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, and Jillian Bell?
Does the film really send any message? Unlikely. Should you still see it? If you like mindless, distracting, oftentimes rude comedy, then yes.