By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Three O’Clock High, the movie which loosely inspired this movie, offers a slightly subversive, comedic take on a showdown story. Director Phil Joanou and writers Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas Szollosi came up with a highly inventive and thoroughly entertaining movie that has a unique style of its own. The filmmakers behind Fist Fight should have lifted more than the basic plot elements from its inspiration, as it lacks the smart laughs, sharp writing, and no discernible style of its own. The film does deliver some good laughs, but overall, comes across as a half-hearted attempt at updating a movie that doesn’t need it.
With his job already in jeopardy, high school teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is having one of the most stressful days of his life and career. After a school prank sends teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) into a fit of rage, Andy, the only teacher to witness the event, feels pressured confirm the claims of Strickland’s students to Principal Tyler (Dean Norris). In response, Strickland challenges Andy to a fist fight at three o’clock after school. Out of cowardice, Andy hatches a few different schemes to get out of his predicament.
Written by Van Robichaux, Evan Susser, Max Greenfield, and directed by Richie Keen, Fist Fight has a good amount of funny moments, but also has its share of unfunny ones. The screenplay feels very loosely written leaving lots of space for the comedians to improvise. This leaves way too much room for the gags to bomb badly. Some gags and schticks get overplayed also. With a better and tighter script, and a fresher take on the material, this could have been a much better movie.
The cast of comics assembled for the movie is a wonderful assortment, but filmmakers relied way too much on them to carry the film. In addition to Day and Cube, who both perform adequately, the film features Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, and Stephnie Weir. In the more non-comedic roles, talents such as Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert, and JoAnna Garcia Swisher get underused in some throw-away roles that could have been filled by anyone with mediocre acting chops.
Even though the movie does have some genuinely funny scenes, the overall experience is rather mediocre and uninspiring, unlike its deliciously riotous inspiration. If one hasn’t already seen it, my recommendation is to watch that film instead. If it has been a while, watch it again. Fist Fight might make for a moderately entertaining hour and a half of television viewing, but just isn’t worth the money or miles spent to see it at the cinema.