Fist Fight and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Richie Keen
First rule of Fist Fight? Make as many references as possible! Hey, I’m not the one who said FUCK THE POLICE in the red band trailer, alright? That’s ALL on Ice Cube! Corny lines aside though, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about this film; mostly because of the cast as I LOVE Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Ice Cube can be pretty compelling when given the right material. I mean sure, it IS February which usually doesn’t fare much better than January as far as movies, and while it’s been pretty mediocre since the start of 2017, there have been a few bright spots here and there. Can this movie about two dudes beating the crap out of each other for contrived reasons be one of the exceptions? Hell, we let John Wick get away with that, right? Let’s find out!!
The movie takes place on the last day of high school where all the seniors are pulling hilarious pranks like hanging vulgar signs on the building, stealing the principal’s car, and mowing a penis into the track field. Needless to say that none of the teachers are too thrilled to be here (and yet for some reason aren’t calling the cops) which includes English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) and History teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube). Well… maybe less so Mr. Strickland who seems to come at today with the same FUCK YOU attitude that he would every other day as he’s the only teacher who can SORT OF keep the kids in line; mainly by threatening to beat the shit out of them. Of course, a guy with these kinds of anger management issues is bound to do something stupid, and that happens on this fateful day where one kid pisses him of and he takes a fucking fire axe to his desk; in full view of the class as well as Mr. Campbell who just so happened to be around during the incident. Under threat of both of them being fired by Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), Mr. Campbell rats on Mr. Strickland who in all fairness endangered the lives of SEVERAL people and probably shouldn’t be in a god damn school in the first place if this is how he’s gonna act. Mr. Strickland doesn’t quite see things that way however, and like a REAL man decides that he’s gonna punch his way out of this, so he challenges Mr. Campbell to a fight after school which the entire town hears about in a matter of minutes. Hashtag Teacher Fight! Can Mr. Campbell find a way out of this ass beating, or is he gonna get his face smooshed in by a guy twice as big as him? Does Mr. Strickland have ulterior motives for starting this fight in the first place? Can… can someone tell who thought this was a good idea in 2017? Please?
This movie is fucking disgusting. Now I’m sure anyone who can ACTUALLY stomach this crap will take great pride in my knickers being all in a twist over this, but those kinds of sadistic edge lord losers (who are the only people I can imagine being HUGE fans of this movie) can rightfully be ignored, as can this lazy and unfunny mess of a comedy. Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone involved with this as I can see where this movie COULD have worked, and the problem seems to be more of a miscalculation rather than an active show of antagonism to the audience (*cough* The Green Inferno *cough*). One of my least favorite movies of all time is Fight Club, and I understand that the reasons I HATE that movie are the same reasons that a lot of people love it; namely that it’s unflinching look into male privilege and toxic masculinity (though there are plenty of people who don’t understand what that movie is about AT ALL). This movie seems to be in the same vein, though while Fincher’s film was trying to make a point about these problems in our society (the amount to which he succeeded is debatable), this doesn’t have that layer of self-examination. It feels less like a movie ABOUT Tyler Durden than if he had decided to make a silly school comedy, down to the point that there’s porn in the damn thing. It’s witless and vulgar, yet utterly self-satisfied with itself. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a tweet from someone with an anime avatar yelling VIRTUE SIGNALING, and like those kind of people you should ignore this shit like the plague.
As much as I’m loath to do so about a movie this unpalatable, I’m gonna try and list some positives. I don’t think any of the actors are BAD with the roles their given, even if those roles are completely obnoxious. The weakest link is probably Ice Cube who’s actually more of a supporting character than the trailers let on, and he’s basically just scowling his way through this. Admittedly, that’s usually what you get Ice Cube to do when you put him in a movie, but the dude has more range than people give him credit for (*cough* Barbershop: The Next Cut *cough*), and considering how histrionic this movie gets towards the end, it’d be nice if he wasn’t so one dimensional. Charlie Day fares a bit better even though he’s similarly typecasted here (he even does the Charlie Kelly scream at one point), but he’s got a lot more to do in the story which gives him more opportunities to flesh out his performance. That’s… really about it. Maybe a joke or two lands at some points and it’s not incompetently shot, but everything else here is completely irredeemable.
So what is the core theme of this movie? What is it ultimately about at the end of the day? Without a doubt, this is about reinforcing several of the core tenants of Toxic Masculinity; not so much in how REAL MENTM are expected to interact with women, but rather how they interact with one another and the society in which they live. Throughout the movie, actions that aren’t seen as MANLYTM are punished and ridiculed, while being a TOUGH GUYTM is idealized. So what does all of that mean? When I say REAL MENTM, MANLYTM, and TOUGH GUYTM, I’m referring to qualities such as quick to anger, uncompromising, willing to enact violence, and holding others to certain standards. Some of this stuff isn’t NECESSARILY toxic as a willingness to defend oneself or others is perfect in certain situation (as is trying keep people accountable when they screw up), but the movie doesn’t take that approach and in fact ends up being a contradictory mishmash of male insecurities. All of this by the way is represented by Ice Cube’s character who somehow feels that YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW while at the same time holding to the notion of NO SNITCHING. I mean… hypocrisy IS the kind of thing I associate with this type of masculinity, but I’m PRETTY sure the filmmakers didn’t want us to notice it.
So what about the other side of the coin? What does the movie associate with the OPPOSITE of masculinity which is embodied by Charlie Day? He isn’t simply passive and non-aggressive. He’s a straight up nebbish in the Jason Biggs and Ben Stiller mold where cowardice and dishonestly is confused with pacifism and charm. The movie WANTS this guy to be representative of THE MODERN MANTM who grew up on television, multiculturalism, and learning about “feelings” instead of beating the snot out of everyone and buying into the macho ideals that were fed to them by corporate entities and shitty politicians. He’s the wussy who’s living his life incorrectly because he doesn’t adhere to the expectations of being a MAN’S MAN and is constant punished for it; both by his peers and the generation after him. It’s a straight up caricature from writers who don’t understand the changing world around them and are lashing out to preserve what they feel is the core of their identity when what they really are are toxic beliefs born from fear and self-consciousness rather than some innate virtue. After all, why should someone else be allowed to live their life differently form you when you weren’t given a choice to (or realize you should) be anything else?
Speaking of the generation after him; who the fuck is these kids they got in the movie? The hardest pill to swallow here, even more than Ice Cube being able to hold down a teaching job considering how quick to anger and abuse he is, is that all the kids in this school are little shit stain scumbags who are pulling of PRANKS that are actually FELONIES, and doing so with gleeful abandon. That, and there’s one dude who’s masturbating in the boy’s room… because reasons I guess. If this school is at the point that people are loudly beating it in public bathrooms and are dragging horses to run around in the school AFTER force feeding it meth, there would be a police presence at all times or the school would have just shut the fuck down. It’s just impossible to root for ANYONE in this; whether it’s the movie’s idea of the good guy (Ice Cube), the movie’s protagonist who needs to learn a lesson (Charlie Day) or the students and faculty who populate this sick and twisted world they inhabit. The movie’s directed by Richie Keen who’s directed several episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which similarly has unlikable characters, but that show is a straight up masterpiece of television while this is an unmitigated disaster. At least with It’s Always Sunny, there’s a fucking point getting made with the characters’ cruelty, and they very rarely (if ever) get their way. This? It wants to be both a raunchy comedy filled with terrible people while ALSO being a throwback to wacky high school movies in the eighties, and the blending of these two ideas just does not work at all. The unlikable characters makes it impossible to take the message seriously, and the overwrought and cliché message prevents any real satirical point from being made; leaving us with what can only be described as a PSA about being the best damn asshole you can be.
Look, even if we take away all the stuff that bothered me on a moral, philosophical, and political level, the best you got is a boring ass comedy. Is there ANYONE out there who still thinks that pictures of dicks are the height of comedy!? SOMEONE has to, or else they wouldn’t use the SAME FUCKING JOKE like ten times in the movie where someone is drawing a picture of a dick where there shouldn’t be a picture of a dick. Oh and what about teacher’s fucking their students? That was TOTALLY hilarious in That’s My Boy, so why not have the same fucking joke here and make a talented comedian like Jillian Bell talk about how awesome statutory rape is over and over again!? If the joke is unfunny, they’ll do it five times. If the joke is ACTUALLY FUNNY, they’ll do it TEN times where you’ll have already gotten tired of it after three. The actors are trying their damnedest in here (particularly Dean Norris who should be playing high school principals for the rest of his career) but the material is just not there for them, and so we end up with a lame and boring movie BEFORE we introduce all the offensive garbage.
Last year, we got Dirty Grandpa which ultimately didn’t make it on my bottom ten list; a testament to how lousy the low points of that year really were. It’s still fairly early, but I’m thinking this one is gonna have a better shot considering it’s not only offensive, but it revels in its own sense of self-importance when all it does is perpetuate false and damaging ideas about manhood. Either they weren’t thinking too hard about the implications of this movie when they were making it or they actually agree with some of the machismo bullshit that was stuffed into this lame and unfunny comedy; either option by the way is inexcusable. Don’t go see this, don’t watch it when it gets to Netflix, and let’s just hope that Pacific Rim: Uprising will keep Charlie Day busy so he doesn’t have to do crap like this in-between seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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