Ice Cube and Charlie Day lead a strong cast in an otherwise disappointing and daft comedy
The comedy staple of teachers who behave worse than their pupils gets a foul-mouthed reworking in Fist Fight, which pits a white and black colleague against each other in a film light on social commentary and heavy on crude humour. Without reaching the bad taste heights of Superbad or Bad Moms, it at least has a strong cast game for scraping the barrel of low-brow laughs.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day plays put-upon English teacher Andy Campbell, who's attempting to navigate the last day of term at a tough Atlanta high school. While the students add to tensions by executing a series of mischievous pranks, a central conflict arises with short-fused history teacher Strickland, played by Ice Cube with the same baleful stare he's been perfecting since 1991's Boyz n the Hood. When Campbell gets Strickland sacked for taking an axe to a student's desk, the milquetoast educator is challenged to an after school fist fight by his muscular colleague, and faces an inevitable humiliation.
After being confronted by the police, Strickland's predictably rude retort revisits the title of one of NWA's most celebrated protest songs, but Fist Fight dodges any real engagement with the racial powder keg of modern America. Instead, minor compensations include funny supporting work from Jillian Bell as a meth-addicted counsellor, and from 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan as an eccentric sports coach.
Director Richie Keen attempts to balance endless pratfalls and sex gags with a being-true-to-yourself learning curve but, given that Strickland's determination not to be late for his child's school concert serves as the poorest of motivations, the contrivances are uninspiring. At least Fist Fight doesn't pull out of a big finale, scoring a few points late on with a ridiculously extended car park showdown, and a blooper reel that raises as many laughs as the rest of the film.
General release from Fri 3 Mar.