There are plenty of R-rated comedies being churned out by studios these days that, while they’re certainly not appropriate for children, rarely embrace that rating beyond the ability to curse and engage in some naughty behavior. That’s not always a bad thing – there are plenty of films that work well in that mold. Fist Fight looks like one of these kinds of films, and understandably so. But there are little bits of detail here that, while they don’t always make the film good, do make it stand apart just a bit from similar films.
Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is a cowardly teacher who ends up crossing another teacher, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), on the last day of school. In response, Strickland decides to kick Campbell’s ass in the parking lot after school. Campbell, being the coward that he is, works to try and get out of the fight, while dealing with other issues that pop up over the course of the day.
So, yeah. It’s a simple premise. What makes it work on some level is just how much the film commits to this being a train wreck of a school (one that, by the way, is set in DeKalb County – so you might recognize the area, fellow Atlantans). The events of the day occur on the last day of school, and the seniors are engaging in the kind of ridiculous “pranking” that only seems to exist in movies (I can only hope). Porn is played in the hallway. A student openly jerks off in the bathroom. Drugs are sold. Horses roam the hallways. The principal’s car is defaced with plenty of detail. And the school looks decidedly middle-class, so this isn’t being passed off as being part of a rough neighborhood – these kids are just monsters.
This ultimately helps the film, because it makes it easier to handle the exaggerated nature of the film itself. Yeah, a hothead teacher is openly threatening violence against another teacher (and students, for that matter). There’s also a teacher walking around with a butterfly knife, a campus officer with no concern for what’s happening on campus, and a guidance counselor on meth who’s interested in a student. Some of this is…ickier than other parts (see the guidance counselor), but it makes the premise work.
What also works is the fight itself. Yes, even though the film barely clocks in at 90 minutes, there’s a fight. And not something that’s over in 15-30 seconds. There’s a solid, lengthy battle between the two that works as the culmination of everything that we’ve seen happening, delivering on the very premise the title provides. Combined with the abilities of the solid cast filling out this movie, it’s enough to provide some decent laughs.