Fist Fight offers good audio and video - but that doesn't help
By Jim Bray
If you like your comedy movie foul mouthed, mean spirited and populated with sexual predators, Fist Fight is for you. But if it's representative of today's comedy films, I weep for popular culture and the society it supposedly reflects.
Rocky or Fight Club it ain't!
Fist Fight is set on the last day of school, also known as Prank Day, when the students perform pranks on the faculty. Judging by the pranks, these students put a lot more effort into this day than they do into their studies. On the other hand, I think if these folks were my teachers I'd have played hookey a lot more than I did in my misspent youth.
Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is a teacher of English who, like much of the faculty, is worried that he's going to get fired at the end of the day - because of budget cuts, not because of any apparent flaws in their professionalism or character (of which none is in evidence, including from principal Richard Tyler, played by Dean Norris). Campbell also has to get to his daughter's school before day's end so he can help her in her talent show.
But then history teacher Strickland (Ice Cube) pulls Campbell into his little academic world. He can't get his history videocassette to work properly because it keeps shutting off and he wants Campbell to see if he can figure out the problem. He does - it's a student who's using a smart phone app to manipulate the ancient video equipment in a way that would be impossible with such old tech stuff. But what's a bit of nerd reality among friends, eh?
The tightly wrapped Strickland grabs a fire axe and destroys a student's desk, causing him - and Campbell - to be called before the principal to answer for the deed. This chopping was actually the only part of the movie I thought in the least bit amusing, and that's only because it reminded me of the time I grabbed the fire axe and brandished it in the school bus I was driving at the time, as a way to get the kids' attention (something I'd probably be in jail for now, but back then students and I laughed about it good naturedly, as was warranted by the situation.).
The panicked Campbell squeals to Principal Tyler, getting Strickland fired. That causes Strickland to inform Campbell that they're going to have a fist fight after the school day because he needs to be taught a lesson about consequences or something. The panicked Campbell (he's panicked a lot in this movie) freaks out and tries anything he can think of to get out of the situation, including talking to coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan) and guidance counsellor/slut/predator Holly (Jillian Bell) to ask for their advice.
What follows is Campbell's attempts to get out of the fight by any means possible other than actually putting up his dukes, whether it be bribing a student to recant his original complaint about Strickland and the axe, or - well, I won't spoil it for you in case you're silly enough to pursue watching this school house wreck.
The filmmakers try to get some social commentary - left wing, of course - about the underfunding of schools, though if I were in charge of education I'd just shut this travesty down or let the occupants (to paraphrase "Man of La Mancha") kill each other if they must, but for God's sake do it quietly.
By the way, there isn't much "quietly" here; above and beyond all the shouting and loud music, the Blu-ray itself is so loud I had to turn it down about five notches below my usually preferred ear bleeding level.
Not only are there no laughs in this movie - none, that I experienced anyway - but there isn't even a decent human being in it, from lead roles to minor parts. Heck, even Campbell's extremely pregnant wife (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) - in whose mouth butter wouldn't melt for most of the film - climbs aboard the cussin' wagon during her daughter's F-bomb-filled rap number in front of her pre-teen peers.
I can understand to a point why these students are such slackers: they have no role models in school. Teachers cuss in front of students, one teacher (Christina Hendricks) fantasizes about knife assault, and the abovementioned counsellor/slut/predator brings weed to school, undoubtedly to keep fresh the buzz she got from her chemical hit before school.
Eventually, we get to the fist fight, which is actually not bad. And by the time the credits roll, finally, our "hero" Campbell has even experienced some personal growth and might, perhaps, come away from the film a better person - though I wouldn't recommend anyone holding his/her/its breath.
But by then I didn't really give a, well, hoot.
How bad is Fist Fight? I was ready to turn it off within five minutes, but stuck with it so I could take the bullet Warner Brothers hope you'll pay for.
At least, at about an hour and a half, it's short.
I lost count of the F-words tossed about in Fist Fight within the first few minutes. It seemed like the producers were determined to use variations of that word nearly as many times as Obama uses "I" in a speech. Sure, I can cuss with the best of them - and do - but there are times and places, and one place I've tried to minimize the cussing is occasions in which I'm supposed to be a role model. Not here.
On the other hand, with what I've seen in news stories, the violence and attitudes displayed in Fist Fight seems uncannily close to what's happening in real life schools these days, so maybe the movie is actually a documentary…
The first section of the closing credits are displayed over a bunch of outtakes that aren't particularly funny, but which are at least as entertaining as the movie itself.
As a Blu-ray, Warner's Fist Fight has good audio and video, but the only extras are a short featurette on filming in Georgia and a series of deleted scenes I couldn't bring myself to watch (there's no lesson to be learned the second time you're kicked by a mule). It also includes a DVD and digital download code.
The 1080p video (it doesn't look like there's a 4K version) is presented at the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which very nearly fills the 16x9 TV completely. Picture quality is very good; I watched the film in both 1080p as well as up converted to 4K on my reference Panasonic 4K TV via Oppo's UDP-203 and it looked great both ways (no, I didn't watch the film twice; I switched half way through), though I'd opt for the 4K up conversion if I were ever silly enough to watch this mess again - but that's a testament to the Oppo and Panasonic, not Fist Fight.
The audio, which as mentioned is really loud (not necessarily a bad thing!) is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1. It's mostly front centred but there's decent use of surround for ambient noises etc. Sound quality is very good.
IMDB.com says Fist Fight premiered in mid-February of this year, so its journey to home video was a quick one. I can see why.
Consider yourself warned.
Copyright 2017 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.