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Fist Fight is a 2017 American adult comedy film directed by Richie Keen and written by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. The film stars Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell and Christina Hendricks. When one school teacher unwittingly causes another teacher's dismissal, he is challenged to an after-school fight. The film premiered in Los Angeles on February 13, 2017, was theatrically released in the United States on February 17, 2017, and grossed $41 million worldwide.

Plot

It is the last day before summer vacation at Roosevelt High School, and the students are out of control, devising elaborate senior pranks and creating chaos. Andy Campbell, the school's mild-mannered and nerdy English teacher, and his fellow faculty members are trying to survive the chaotic day as best they can, but only the history teacher, Ron Strickland, is fierce enough to intimidate the students into behaving. Meanwhile, Campbell is awaiting news of the birth of his second child with his wife Maggie. While teaching, Campbell is pulled aside by his friend, the counselor Holly, to inform him of rumors of downsizing of all departments. Given his pregnant wife and child, this renders Campbell extremely anxious.

After preventing Campbell from walking into a paint trap, Strickland asks for his assistance in using an outdated AV system which keeps turning off after a couple of seconds. Campbell catches a student, Neil, secretly using a remote control app on his smartphone to turn off the VCR. An infuriated Strickland grabs the phone and destroys it. Neil, using a classmate's phone, turns the TV off again and it enrages Strickland, who grabs a fire axe and destroys the student's desk, sending the class screaming from the room. Both Campbell and Strickland are brought to Principal Tyler's office to discuss the matter. Strickland warns Campbell to keep his behavior a secret, but after Tyler threatens to fire them both if no one steps forward, Campbell tells the truth, resulting in the loss of Strickland's job. In retaliation, Strickland challenges Campbell to a fist fight after school. Campbell is convinced that he physically does not stand a chance against Strickland, and tries to set matters straight by asking Neil to share a false testimony to Principal Tyler in order to clear Strickland's name and have him reinstated. Neil agrees on the condition that Campbell buy him a MacBook Pro. After doing so, Campbell runs into Maggie and his daughter, Ally, who remind him to arrive promptly that afternoon for Ally's father-daughter talent show. Neil's false account is enough to convince Principal Tyler to reinstate Strickland.

Campbell and Strickland receive an emergency call from Holly. The two meet up with her in a mock United Nations debate room and discover she tricked them into coming there so they could talk through their issues, with Holly acting as mediator. When Campbell tells Strickland that he was able to get him his job back, Strickland is further enraged, stating that Campbell should have told him about this plan before acting, and citing the mishandling of the school system. The fight is still on.

After seeking the advice of Holly and Coach Crawford, Campbell resolves to have Strickland removed from the campus before the day's end. As a last resort, Campbell threatens Neil into giving him the drug MDMA. As Principal Tyler finds his Toyota Prius vandalized and parked in the school's lobby, Campbell plants the Molly in Strickland's satchel. Campbell calls the police in the hopes of having Strickland arrested, but the attempt is botched and both teachers are incarcerated. The two teachers share a cell with other inmates, and Campbell goes across the cell and tricks an enormous inmate into giving Strickland a beating, but only when signaled. Campbell then returns to Strickland in order to trick him into giving the signal, but Strickland instead tells Campbell that the fight is called off after everything that they have been through the day. When the inmate nonetheless attacks Strickland, Strickland easily knocks him out, and upon realizing Campbell's actions, declares the fight back on. The two are then released, after the police discover the drug used to frame Strickland was only aspirin.

Campbell heads back to the school to meet up with the school board, Tyler and Superintendent Johnson, but learns that his colleagues have all been fired. Impatient after being told to wait for nearly an hour, Campbell barges into the meeting and learns that he is one of the few to remain at his position. However, Campbell stands his ground and voices his complaints about the public school system not receiving the respect and materials it truly needs. Campbell heads over to Ally's talent show, where Ally's rendition of Big Sean's "I Don't Fuck with You" inspires him to take a stand against Strickland.

In the school parking lot, Campbell and Strickland confront each other, and engage in a heated fight that is dragged throughout the school and sees both men seemingly gaining the upper hand at different moments, and the fight goes throughout the entire school. Campbell briefly knocks Strickland out with a fire extinguisher and celebrates only to be sucker-punched by Strickland after he gets up. Strickland then answers Campbell's phone and learns that Maggie is about to give birth, at which point he decides to drive Campbell to the hospital.

That summer, Tyler arrives at the Campbell household to tell Campbell that the publicity and public outcry the fight generated has put the Department of Education in a position where they need to put more effort and money toward their schools, and must rehire Campbell and Strickland. Campbell accepts on the condition that his colleagues be reinstated. As the new school year begins, the faculty return to their respective positions. Campbell and Strickland, now best friends, are ready to enforce learning.

In a post-credits scene, Crawford is seen flirting with the 911 operator, whom Campbell had called earlier in a failed attempt to stop Strickland, in person. After rapping for her, Crawford realizes that he doesn't know her name.

Cast

  • Charlie Day as Andrew "Andy" Campbell, mild-mannered English teacher
  • Ice Cube as Ron Strickland, a hot-headed history teacher and Campbell's colleague
  • Tracy Morgan as Coach Crawford, an incompetent gym coach
  • Jillian Bell as Miss Holly, a lecherous guidance counselor under the influence of various vices
  • Christina Hendricks as Miss Monet, an intense drama teacher who is attracted to Strickland
  • Dean Norris as Richard Tyler, the disgruntled principal of the school
  • Kumail Nanjiani as Officer Mehar, the school security guard who dislikes profanity
  • Dennis Haysbert as Superintendent Johnson
  • JoAnna Garcia as Maggie Campbell, the devoted, loving and pregnant wife of Andy
  • Kym Whitley as 911 Operator
  • Conphidance as Gangster
  • Max Carver as Daniel
  • Charlie Carver as Nathaniel
  • Alexa Nisenson as Ally Campbell, Andy and Maggie's daughter
  • Austin Zajur as Neil

Production

In December 2013, it was announced that New Line Cinema was developing Fist Fight, a comedy from writers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. On June 9, 2015, Ice Cube and Charlie Day were cast in the film, which 21 Laps Entertainment produced, along with its Shawn Levy, as well as Billy Rosenberg and Max Greenfield. On July 10, Richie Keen was confirmed to directed the film, while Dan Cohen was set to also produce. On September 15, 2015, Jillian Bell and Dean Norris were also cast in the film, and on September 21, 2015, Tracy Morgan, JoAnna Garcia, and Dennis Haysbert joined the cast. On September 25, 2015, Christina Hendricks was added to the cast, and Kym Whitley was later confirmed to appear.

Principal photography on the film began on September 28, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia, and ended on November 23, 2015.

Reception

Box office

Fist Fight grossed $32.2 million in the United States and Canada and $8.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $41 million.

In North America, the film opened on February 17, 2017, alongside A Cure for Wellness and The Great Wall, and was initially projected to gross $15–20 million from 3,184 theaters in its opening weekend. However after grossing $600,000 from Thursday night previews and $3.8 million on its first day, projections were lowered to $10–12 million. The film went on to open to $12.2 million, finishing 5th at the box office.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 27% based on 113 reviews and an average rating of 3.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Fist Fight boasts a surplus of comedic muscle but flails lazily, and far too few of its jokes land with enough force to register." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a score 37 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.

Writing for RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny gave the film of 3 out of 4 stars, saying: "Fist Fight stands up, at least a little bit, for storytelling". In contrast, Richard Roeper gave the film zero out of four stars, saying, "I could tell you to sit through Fist Fight and then get back to me — but I like you, so I’m not going to urge you to subject yourself to 91 minutes of cinematic detention that felt twice as long and was so ugly, so mean-spirited, so bereft of laughs, I found myself rooting for a technical malfunction if only to catch a momentary breather." British film critic Mark Kermode wrote, "Shoddily written, screechingly performed, crude, crass, endurance-testing... It's utter, utter, utter rubbish."

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