Fist Fight Review: The best high school movie this decade

Fist Fight is Ice Cube’s best film since Barbershop 3 and it’s the best high school film this decade.

The funniest movie of the year is about two teachers who are at odds with each other. When Strickland (Ice Cube) goes off on a student a fellow teacher named Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), who witnessed the act, tells the principal. After Strickland gets fired he tells Campbell after school there will be a fist fight. Through this one day movie Campbell tries to avoid Strickland at all cost, but as Strickland yells to him “you can run but you can’t hide!”

The comedic build up to the after school fight is almost just as entertaining as the epic fight itself. More than the comedy and fight itself, the message of this story is strong and speaks to today’s school system that now seems to cut essential equipment for teachers and is not holding students accountable for their actions.

In this film Strickland is the disciplinary teacher who’s intimidating to other staff members and evokes fear in his students. Meanwhile, Campbell is the down-to-earth friendly teacher other staff members find likeable but students take advantage of him. With students getting out of hand on the last day of school with senior pranks, the foil characters show there needs to be a balance when it comes to the personalities Campbell and Strickland possess.

“The underlined message is we got to fix these schools because the schools are driving the teachers crazy now,” Ice Cube said on the Today Show.

Ice Cube (Friday & Ride Along) delivers as the aggressive “bad man” who doesn’t take any mess from the students. The former NWA rapper wears his emotions on his sleeve as Strickland and brings out the emotional edge of this character. Strickland is raw, he’s real and Ice Cube nails this character to perfection. He doesn’t disappoint for a second and Friday fans will love the reference he makes to the 22-year-old classic film in this movie. You’ll know it, when you hear it.

Day (Horrible Bosses & It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) plays the punk, push-over teacher like no other. Much like Will Ferrell in Daddy’s Home (2015), he takes the vulnerability of this character to the edge and makes for a good punch line, verbally and physically. Through the emotional rollercoaster for this character he takes the audience on a journey and he doesn’t jump the gun when it comes to this character’s emotional changes in situations: It’s gradual and believable. The character development for Campbell was crucial to bringing this film home and it gives him a one percent chance, rather than the zero percent chance he had at the beginning of this film, to win the fight. So I’m saying he has a chance, even though it’s slim to basically a .01 percent chance.

What made this film work was the depth in the ensemble cast. Beyond Ice Cube and Day, the other supporting characters played off the leads well to make this the greatest comedy of the year.

Tracy Morgan (30 Rock & Cop Out) is Tracy Morgan and the humor he brings leaves you wanting to see more from Coach Crawford of the football team. Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) is hilarious as the cougar guidance counselor Holly with a drug problem who tries to help Campbell avoid an early funeral while sharing her awkward experiences and feelings. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men & Bad Santa 2) is Ms. Monet, the twisted protective French teacher who easily gets set off to the point she wants Strickland to literally slice open Campbell’s head, and supplies him.

There’s only one ground rule for the after school fight in the parking lot. And that’s no one wins until someone is unconscious; so other than that, anything goes. Strickland versus Campbell, you’ll have to watch for yourself to see who wins. And Strickland “wants everybody to see this.”

Fist Fight is now playing.

By Gino Terrell

Click here, to read a preview of the film and thoughts from Ice Cube about what the movie is about.


Gino Terrell is the Director of Content at Hidden Valley Culture Blog/In-Depth section. Terrell covered local artists and reviewed mainstream shows in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area under the Twin Cities Daily Planet (2014-15). He also freelanced for MinnPost and interned at Pioneer Press, KSTP TV (the Minneapolis ABC News Affiliate) and American Public Media Group. He's accumulated over 30 awards from the Associated Collegiate Press, Society of Professional Journalists and National Association of Black Journalists and founded award winning student-magazine Pipers In-Depth at Hamline University (St. Paul, Minnesota). He was once the sports editor for the school newspaper, The Oracle. Follow him on Twitter: @Gin026

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