Fist Fight is an comedy that looks dumb but has not only brains and laughs, but something to say. The highest praise I can give it is to say that it is Fight Club Lite. If you’re a fan of dark comedy that has questions to ask, you should watch it. Director Richie Keen has delivered a layered story portrayed by fantastic actors. While it may falter at the end, the majority of the movie is so good that it is forgivable.
The leads for Fist Fight are well chosen. Ice Cube, as Strickland, is a force of nature, determined and unforgiving. Buying completely into the plot requires understanding Strickland’s motivations. There are enough cheap laughs here that Ice Cube didn’t need to sell us on that. This film could have coasted by on the cheap laughs, but it didn’t. The delivery of Ice Cube is so spot on, passionate, and thoughtful that it gives you pause. At the end I felt I understood what he represented. Ice Cube is always fun, but his dedication to this role is obvious and it elevates this movie in a way I didn’t expect.
As a foil for Strickland is Charlie Day’s Andy Campbell, a reasonable man. He keeps his head down and focuses on the things that he feels are important in life: keeping his job, showing affection for his family, and not fighting. Like most adults with a family and job trying to keep it together, he’ll do anything to avoid fighting. We’re thrust into this world through his point of view and we’re supposed to want what he wants. He wants to get through the day with his job, and without having to get in a fight. Similar to Ice Cube, Charlie Day is perfectly cast for this role. He brings a perfect balance of comedic timing, rationalism, and weaseliness to the role.
And so an unstoppable force meets an immovable object to the extreme that we begin ask a question. Should we avoid all conflict? Is there never a time when it’s appropriate to abandon our composure and throw down? The ending of the film fails to deliver on these themes. I think that’s because there was a need to have what felt like a happier ending. Whatever the reason, the movie doesn’t quite hit its themes . Yet, by the time we get to the end, the rest has been so much fun that it’s hard to feel disappointed.
On top of this thoughtful story line we experience a school gone mad, over run with insane and out of control students. It’s like the cover of a mad magazine. The absurdist surface contrasts the philosophy lurking under the surface. It feels like Rick and Morty in how it delivers thoughtful narrative under the guise of dick and fart jokes. And the great casting doesn’t stop with the leads. Every single actor here brought the goods. Filled with the likes of Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Tracy Morgan, Kumail Nanjiani, and more, the comedy in the foreground of the story is firing on all cylinders.
Despite failing to deliver on its themes at the end, Fist Fight is a well made and funny movie. The acting is fun and it is capable of provoking thought. If it had stuck to its guns, I would have considered it to be a classic. As it is, I still recommend giving it a watch.
|Final Verdict:||A recommended comedy that works on multiple levels and is smarter than it needs to be.|