“Fist Fight” Offers Occasionally Amusing, If Banal, Entertainment

Fist Fight

Fist Fight (Richie Keen, 2017)

What story there is in Fist Fight centers around budget cuts at a smallish public high school, which result in general anomie. The last day of the school year arrives, and all hell breaks loose, among both faculty and students. Pushover Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) hopes that today won’t be the day he gets fired, while anger-management reject Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube, 21 Jump Street) seems like he actually wants to be fired, if only to make a statement about the poor conditions at the school. Meanwhile, Campbell’s pregnant wife is due any moment, and the local school board is rife with corruption. Did I mention the last day of school? It’s senior prank time! Who needs plot when you can just enjoy the mayhem?

Before long, Campbell does something that makes him a target for Strickland, who challenges him … to an after-school fist fight. This is the great dramatic motivator, as Campbell then spends the next hour trying his utmost to avoid that fight. Will he man up and do what needs to be done?  I’ll let you guess. Interestingly, despite the potential racial angle of a black man and white man getting into a fight, the movie mostly steers away from race as a significant plot point. These are just people (even if both Day and Ice Cube play yet another variant on characters they have played before).

The joys, such as they are, in a movie like this lie in allowing the silliness to wash over you. If, however, you ever step back and analyze, in any way, the banal stupidity of much of the structure, then it all falls apart. My advice, then, if you want a good laugh. is to just check your brain at the door. There are enough good supporting players – including, but not limited to, Jillian Bell (Office Christmas Party), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) – to round out the proceedings with entertaining performances, but you’ll probably forget most, if not all, of what you have seen as soon as the movie ends. Take what pleasure you can from it, then, and move on.

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