What a pestilential little picture is “Fist Fight.”
It pits a stereotypical Angry Black Guy (Ice Cube, glaring and swearing) against a stereotypical Wimpy White Squish (Charlie Day, in squeaking weakling mode) whose ongoing conflict throughout the last day of school escalates to … see title.
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Who to root for in this situation? Cube’s character, a hair-trigger-tempered high school teacher who enforces discipline with a fire ax wielded wildly in a classroom as students frantically flee?
Or Day’s, a mild-mannered teacher at the same school? He’s a reasonable-seeming upstanding fellow who abhors conflict, is the loving husband to a ready-to-deliver pregnant wife (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and doting dad to a cute elementary school-age daughter (Alexa Nisenson).
Choice seems easy, right? Except Mr. Upstanding and Reasonable reveals himself to be a loathsome little weasel who, in his frantic efforts to weasel out of a ferocious after-school beating, will resort to bribing a drug-dealing student and planting drugs on his rival to set him up for a bust by the cops.
When Day’s character rats out Ice Cube’s for the ax episode, Cube informs him that “snitches get stitches,” and the stage is set for a beat-down delivered in front of a howling mob of students and faculty.
Add in a meth-dealing/student-seducing school counselor (Jillian Bell) and a student body whose last-day-of-school pranking results in a level of vandalism not seen since the fall of Baghdad, and set the whole thing adrift on a tsunami of profanity courtesy of director Richie Keen and screenplay writers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. The result? A comedy that traffics in those crude stereotypes, cheap laughs and boundless cynicism. That cynicism manifests itself in the filmmakers’ feeble attempt to somehow redeem all this by having their two main characters rail against an educational system that lays off teachers willy-nilly in a budget-cutting frenzy.
It’s at its most cynical at the end, when all bad behavior is not merely excused, but rewarded, and all is forgiven between to two fighters.
☆ out of 5
Cast: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks.
Director: Richie Keen.
Running time: 1:31.
Rated: R, for language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug material.