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Fist Fight

A good teacher kindles sparks of curiosity in fertile minds. A great teacher stokes those embers of creativity and sets imaginations ablaze by rewarding hard work, independent thought and invention. Alas, there are no brilliant educational minds just knuckleheads in Fist Fight, a misfiring comedy of pointless macho posturing about two high school teachers who agree to settle their differences with a brawl in the playground surrounded by cheering students. Richie Keen's film is as much fun as repeated swift kicks to the nether portions, bludgeoning us into stupefied submission with scenes of toe-curling toilet humour (some of it literally in cubicles) and bad taste buffoonery. Screenwriters Van Robichaux and Evan Susser achieve epic fail grades for effort and achievement, defying logic and comprehension with their unsympathetic, two-dimensional characters' antics. Laughter is absent without a doctor's note and the film's underlying life lesson seems to be that a 21st century family man earns the love and respect of his wife and child by lying, swearing, brawling and blackmailing. If you can't succeed with integrity, cheat. On the last day of term at Roosevelt High School, senior students are running amok, playing pranks on staff including beleaguered Principal Tyler (Dean Norris). Fiery-tempered history teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) is the only member of faculty willing to challenge the students, with a baseball bat if necessary. Mild-mannered English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) suggests a gentler approach, but Ron angrily retorts, "I don't need to be liked, I need to educate!" During a fraught final morning, Ron loses his temper with one of his students (Austin Najur) and swings a fire axe at the joker's desk. The two men are summoned to Principal Tyler's office, where Andy's stuttering version of events leads to Ron's termination. "After school, you gonna meet me in the parking lot and we're going to settle this the primitive way... with our fists," growls vengeful Ron to Andy. Dim-witted PE teacher Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan) and school counsellor Holly (Jillian Bell), who lusts inappropriately after older boys, rally to Andy's seemingly hopeless cause. Adding to Andy's woes, his daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson) expects him to sneak out of classes in the middle of the day to perform with her at a talent contest. Fist Fight is 91 tortuous minutes of misjudged mischief including a toxic running gag about paedophilia. Ice Cube and Day are thoroughly unlikeable as stressed-out shepherds of impressionable flocks, who ultimately believe fists speak loud than words. Subtlety is placed in detention in the opening frames while plausibility is expelled for the crude, bone-crunching finale. When school counsellor Holly attempts mediation and is met with fierce resistance by Andy and Ron, she sighs aloud, "This is not going well." That's a gob-smacking understatement.