Fist Fight (15)
Running time 1hr 31mins
WE’VE officially reached peak Ice Cube. Casting the rapper, now a veritable comedy institution, as a history teacher driven to the brink was always going to make for a faintly amusing pitch, but his performance in Fist Fight is totally unremarkable, indistinguishable from anything else he’s done of late – squint, and you could just as well be watching a rendition of his shouty, chortle-inducing gig in 21 Jump Street. He is, in fact, about the only thing justifying the admission price that goes with this foul-mouthed
When all’s said and done, Cube’s contribution only exemplifies the overall blandness of Fist Fight – remove the preposterous backdrop (end of term at an Atlanta high school), and this could just as easily be a movie about prison shenanigans or an office rivalry. Charlie Day (of Horrible Bosses fame) is on exceptionally annoying form as Andy Campbell, a pushover English teacher whom Mr Strickland (Cube) has, in the wake of a ludicrous upset, challenged to an after-school punch-up. Having got its bare-bones plot out of the way within 20 minutes, the film’s true purposes become quickly apparent – the screenwriters are keen to burden this unfortunate project with every misjudged gag and
product placement they could lay their grubby mitts on, and the movie, consequently, plays more like a series of rejected TV skits than a coherent narrative.
The skits themselves, for that matter, cover a full spectrum ranging from the tired to the tawdry to the downright offensive. The recent efforts of Seth Rogen, et al, prove that stoner comedy can retain its risqué edge without crossing into irredeemable nastiness, but Fist Fight, as its profoundly unimaginative title would suggest, has little time for such a delicate act. There’s a joke involving an ill-conceived attempt to acquire drugs from students (ha); a counsellor (Jillian Bell) graphically muses on her feelings for an 18-year-old (ha-ha). Campbell comes off as an unsympathetic dweeb, his voice akin the sound of a thousand nails drawn across a blackboard; as for Strickland, we barely learn anything of him except rumours that he was once a gangster (gasp).
The former, of course, has an impossibly tolerant wife (JoAnna Garcia) on-side, symptomatic of the movie’s antediluvian gender politics – the women here are all either crude silhouettes or unhinged harpies, and the central fisticuff is unequivocally presented as a macho rite-of-passage, a means via which Campbell might prove his manly virtue to the world (at one point, he is made the laughing stock of an anti-bullying hotline he contacted for help).
Maybe we’re missing a trick with this one, but a movie can no longer carry itself on shock value alone, and Fist Fight has run out of steam a long time prior to the commencement of its titular showdown. A dollop of repulsiveness, with a big side-dish of boring – avoid at any cost.