Judd: Fist Fight is the story of two teachers, spineless, conniving pushover Campbell and short-tempered, violent Strickland (Charlie Day and Ice Cube) who work at an underperforming public high school somewhere in Georgia. It is the last day of the year, and Seniors are running amok while the teachers are fretting over massive layoffs. Strickland destroys a student’s desk with an axe and loses his job after Campbell snitches to save his own. Strickland then challenges Campbell to a fist fight after school. While the town erupts with violent glee, Campbell does everything he can to weasel out of the confrontation. Fist Fight is written by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, two writers new on the scene, and directed by Richie Keen, who’s directed numerous sitcoms. In addition to Ice Cube and Day, the movie also stars Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks and Kumail Nanjiani.
The movie is rated R for language, and unfortunately, that’s about all it has going for it. The script is extremely dull, not to mention convoluted. The movie mostly focuses on Day running around scheming to frame Strickland, while trying to make it to his elementary-aged daughter’s talent show. Also, his wife is pregnant, which is supposed to make the fact that he might lose his job all the more dire. Between Campbell’s obvious lack of morals and Stickland’s violent temper, it’s hard to root for either one of these men, and it’s hard to believe that either one of them hasn’t lost their job already — but that hardly registers as an issue compared with the rest of the movie. The fact that it’s Senior Prank Day is used as a lazy gimmick for the students to behave badly, adding stress to an already frazzled faculty. The other teachers are minor characters for Campbell to confide his current plot, with most of them responding, “Take your ass whoopin’ like a man.” Both Jillian Bell’s and Tracy Morgan’s considerable comedic talents are wasted, and Christina Hendricks could have been played by any nameless actress.
With Ice Cube delivering his standard tough-guy performance and Charlie Day boiling over with shrill rage in the last act, the fault of this movie lies in hands of those behind the camera. The direction is very episodic with each of Campbell’s failed ploys further enraging Strickland or ending with Campbell falling prey to a prank. The script relies on numerous penis jokes, only a handful of which are worthy of a chuckle. Bell tries to bring the same manic intensity she’s displayed in Workaholics and 22 Jump Street, but her dialogue as a meth-addicted guidance counselor with a crush on her students goes nowhere – the description alone is funnier than the character.
Fist Fight was a huge disappointment as it plays like a PG-13 movie with vulgar language. The jokes and script are flat, even though the actors are trying to do their best with it. It’s hard to say how the movie could have been improved, outside of scrapping the whole thing and starting over with a clean sheet of paper. Fist Fight is definitely one of those movies that lives up (or down?) to the expectation of February dreck.
Judd: 1 star