It is the last day of school at Roosevelt High school and that means senior’s prank day. Amongst the many teachers trying to get through the day is Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan), Holly (Jillian Bell) and English teacher, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day). One teacher who is not tolerating any pranks is the fearsome history teacher, Strickland (Ice Cube).
The school is looking to lay off teachers, with all the teachers on tenterhooks waiting for their meeting with Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), to see whether or not they will still be working after the summer. Campbell feels added pressure as his wife, Maggie (JoAnne Garcia Swisher), is heavily pregnant and several days overdue and his daughter, Ally (Alexa Nisenson) has a recital at school that he has promised to attend.
When Strickland asks Campbell to come and help him with a VCR issue, the situation gets out of hand. One of the students, Neil (Austin Zajur) pranks Strickland by controlling the television via an app. Strickland overreacts and smashes his phone and then puts a fire axe through the student’s desk.
Neil tells the Principal. Strickland tells Campbell that they need to stick together. Campbell goes along with the plan until Tyler threatens to fire them both. Campbell gives up Strickland. Strickland tells them that they are going to fight after school. Campbell thinks he is jesting but then realises he is serious.
By general consensus, everyone agrees that Campbell has no hope of winning a fistfight with Strickland. An unsavoury incident with Campbell and a student, seen by French teacher, Ms Monet (Christina Hendricks), has her believing that he needs more than a beatdown. She goes to Strickland and tells him to cut Campbell. Strickland declines.
Campbell makes a deal with Neil, telling him to recant the story so as Strickland can get his job back. His plan works but Strickland is not happy. He does not want his job back. He wants to fight. Actions have consequences.
Campbell calls the police and tells them that another teacher has threatened to fight him. The dispatcher laughs at him. Getting increasingly desperate, Campbell decides to plant drugs on Strickland. The police show up but cannot find the drugs that he planted in Strickland’s case.
Strickland catches him and is about to fight him but Campbell calls the police back into the room. They both get arrested. Campbell is furious that he will probably miss his daughter’s show and the birth of his child. He gets another inmate to attack Strickland. Strickland puts the man to sleep.
They get released as the ‘drugs’ Neil sold Campbell was actually aspirin. Campbell rushes back to the school for his meeting. They make him wait. Campbell finds out he was made to wait because Tyler and the superintendent, Johnson (Dennis Haysbert) were talking about Johnson’s vacation. They tell him that they cannot make any more cutbacks and his job is safe.
Campbell asks what cutbacks they are going to make. Tyler tells him it does not concern him. Campbell is furious at being made to wait and also at the lack of respect his profession is shown. He goes to his daughter’s show. His daughter sings an inappropriately worded song to get back at a girl who is bullying her.
Campbell returns to the school to fight Strickland. They have an epic fight. Strickland eventually knocks him out. He wakes him up when Campbell gets a phone call from his wife. She is in labour. Strickland takes him to the hospital. The fight goes viral and brings attention to the plight of education in the school system. Tyler reinstates all of the teaching staff. Campbell gains the respect of the students. The end.
Fist Fight is a highly enjoyable comedy from the pen of Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. Directed by Richie Keen, Fist Fight is a ridiculous premise executed brilliantly. Charlie Day and Ice Cube are great as teachers with opposing views. Though Ice Cube is pretty much the same character in every film he is in, in this particular film it works perfectly, his permanent mister T shtick made for this film.
Day is great also as the initially spineless Campbell. His demeanour, especially after the fight is set, seems, to a civilised mind, reasonable. But when Strickland lays out his simple reasoning for the fight, the route of discourse is eradicated. They have to fight.
At ninety-one minutes long, Fist Fight is pretty much the perfect length for a comedy. Though the humour will not tickle everybody, this reviewer found the film not only funny – quite important in a comedy – but laugh out loud in parts.
Fist Fight is by no means high art or even a clever comedy. What it is is funny and that is the minimum requirement for a comedy. An amusing ninety minutes.