Fist Fight hit theaters in February (2017) but the R-rated comedy failed to make much of a dent at the box office, debuting in fifth place and hitting eleventh by its third week, topping out at just over $32 million by the end of its run. To be fair, it did face some stiff competition that first week with The LEGO Batman Movie, Fifty Shades Darker, The Great Wall and John Wick: Chapter Two in theaters and Hidden Figures and La La Land riding out awards season. But a movie with Ice Cube and Charlie Day battling it out should have been a slam dunk.
Perhaps the film was just not marketed properly. I don’t remember much from the trailer that really explained what the film was about so maybe people were also uninterested because of that. Fist Fight takes place on the last day of school at Roosevelt High School, traditionally the day the seniors prank the teachers. But over the years the pranks have gotten completely out of hand. I mean, ridiculously, dangerously out of hand, something only students in a movie could ever accomplish. One of the pranks leads to a classroom altercation between Ice Cube’s Mr. Strickland, who takes an axe to a student’s desk because the student is remotely turning a TV on and off with a phone app (and for a school that still uses VHS decks and analog TVs, this adds to the unbelievability of the story). Day’s Mr. Campbell is a witness and when the two are called to the principal’s office, the notion of teachers sticking together goes out the window once they are threated with being fired. Campbell, of course, rats out Strickland which results in his dismissal and sets up the conflict to come.
Aside from bad marketing, early reviews were probably also a factor in keeping audiences away. The film certainly isn’t the worst comedy ever made, but it does really stretch any sense of reality that this could happen in real life. The pranks escalate basically because the school administration just doesn’t care, outside of Strickland and Campbell. The principal (Dean Norris) is too busy firing the staff, the guidance counselor (Jillian Bell) does meth, and there is another psycho teacher (Christina Hendricks) who has it out for Campbell … but we have no idea why she wants to cut his face off. Tracy Morgan as the gym teacher gets to be Tracy Morgan and that is okay considering everything else going on. Day plays his usual, over-caffeinated, jittery character and Ice Cube is the tough guy. No one is really stretching here. Even Bell is playing a variation of her Idiotsitter character. But even with all of the ridiculousness on screen, there are still a few good laughs here and there, and yes, the movie does deliver the promised altercation of the title. The film’s best moment actually involves Campbell’s daughter at a school talent show, but I won’t ruin the surprise that generated the biggest laugh for me.
Warner Bros. home video presentation on Blu-ray looks just fine, very sharp, detailed and colorful, presenting the digital photography to its best advantage. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also terrific, keeping the voices front and center while giving the surrounds a good workout with ambient sound effects and music, and putting you right in the middle of the epic fight. All around, it’s another stellar presentation from WBHE.
As for the extras, there’s not much. There is a two-minute featurette of director Richie Keen and various crew members talking about working with the Georgia Film Commission, more of a selling point for other filmmakers to consider the state for their next production, and 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes capped by a minute or so of outtakes. No trailers or anything else to make this a more attractive purchase. But, if you like raunchy comedy, Ice Cube, Charlie Day or even Tracy Morgan, the Blu-ray offers a theatrical quality presentation that you may want to add to your collection.
WBHE generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray copy of the film for reviewing purposes.