Ever since the first Friday film opened in 1995, Ice Cube has enjoyed plenty of success in comedies. Heís found a nice niche for himself in a genre that has, surprisingly, produced more hits than misses for the rapper-turned-actor. Over the past two decades, Cube has amassed an impressive filmography with appearances in films like the Barbershop, Jump Street, and Ride Along series. Cube continues his comedic winning streak in the satisfyingly crude Fist Fight, a film light on plot and character development, but one that still often shines due to its hilarious star-studded cast.
Cube plays frightening and short-tempered high school teacher Strickland, whoís hellbent on fighting his poor co-worker Andy Campbell, played by Charlie Day. Strickland challenges Campbell to a classic after school brawl after Campbell gets Strickland fired over a class incident. Make no mistake, while Cube is excellent playing yet another hard-edged tough guy, Charlie Day steals the show as the sweet and lovable Campbell. Day is the center of attention in Fist Fight. The story takes place in a single day and follows Campbellís creative and risky attempts to weasel his way out of the fight, which cause some crazy consequences for him. To top it all off, most of the staff is getting fired and students are pulling some harsh pranks on teachers during this last day of school.
While Fist Fight doesnít have the most exciting premise, as the main focus is just on Strickland and Campbell eventually locking horns, the filmís simple plot allows for a myriad of hysterical moments. Campbell finds himself being wrecked by a wild horse all drugged up on meth, buying molly from a student, and witnessing Strickland threaten students with an ax, and this is all in just the first half of the film. Fist Fight is littered with these types of ridiculous scenarios, which are the result of Campbell's bad luck and the studentsí pranks, and they make the movie exciting.
The fantastic performances from the cast is Fist Fightís biggest strength. Right out of the gate, Day is a likable protagonist you can't help but root for. He's been great at physical comedy thus far in his career, and Fist Fight allows his particular comedic talents and manic personality to shine. He gets tossed, punched, body-slammed, tackled, and screwed over countless times in various ways, and itís glorious to watch. Cube is the perfect villain for Day here, and his Strickland character is the complete opposite of Campbell -- stern, angry, and even harrowing. Students and staff are frightened of the man but don't worry, Strickland isn't some horror villain.
Cube, like Day, has memorable scenes that focus on what Cube does best as a comedic character. His ability to make anyone squeal in an instance and his short temper getting the best of him is hysterical to watch. Campbell has a difficult time teaching Strickland how to work a coffee maker in one of the filmís earlier scenes. Campbell trying his best to explain this simple process while also avoiding offending Strickland is quite funny, and perfectly establishes what to expect from the pair and their tenuous relationship.
With Cube and Day excellently leading the cast, the film also features the talents of Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, and Kumail Nanjiani. They're all just as amusing and superb as the filmís two leads. It's a pleasure to see Tracy Morgan back acting in comedies again, as his particular brand of humor and over-the-top line delivery is on full display here. Morgan plays the schoolís terrible sports coach Crawford, who gets taken advantage of by his students because of his inability to actually coach sports.
Norris is Principal Tyler and Nanjiani plays the high schoolís security guard Mehar. They're certainly given their moments to shine, with poor Tyler unable to handle this prank-filled final day of school, and Mehar constantly feeling self-conscience about not being an actual police officer. However, Jillian Bell definitely steals every scene she's in as the perverted guidance counselor Holly. She's just so weird and awkward, and the way she frustrates and confuses Campbell with her zany personality makes for some of the funniest scenes in the movie. At one point, Holly argues with Campbell about whether or not it's morally OK to sleep with her students when they turn 18.
However, Fist Fightís biggest blunder is the way it handles Mad Menís Christina Hendricks. She sticks out as a sore thumb playing the creepy Ms. Monet. The character feels out-of-place and itís not Hendricksí fault. Ms. Monet is given little do in the film, appearing in less than 10 minutes throughout the whole thing, and her thirst for murdering and stabbing people will make audiences feel uncomfortable.
Fist Fight also tries to shove in a moral lesson towards the end about the importance of taking care of your high schools and teachers, but it canít help but feel forced. The film isnít about telling a coherent and thoughtful story and itís at its best when it sticks to crude humor. Thankfully, the titular clash between Campbell and Strickland is a well-choreographed and engaging spectacle that lives up to the hype.