Fist Fight – review (Prime)

    It is the last day of school at Roosevelt High school and that means senior’s prank day. Amongst the many teachers trying to get through the day is Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan), Holly (Jillian Bell) and English teacher, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day). One teacher who is not tolerating any pranks is the fearsome history teacher, Strickland (Ice Cube). 

    The school is looking to lay off teachers, with all the teachers on tenterhooks waiting for their meeting with Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), to see whether or not they will still be working after the summer. Campbell feels added pressure as his wife, Maggie (JoAnne Garcia Swisher), is heavily pregnant and several days overdue and his daughter, Ally (Alexa Nisenson) has a recital at school that he has promised to attend. 

    When Strickland asks Campbell to come and help him with a VCR issue, the situation gets out of hand. One of the students, Neil (Austin Zajur) pranks Strickland by controlling the television via an app. Strickland overreacts and smashes his phone and then puts a fire axe through the student’s desk. 

    Neil tells the Principal. Strickland tells Campbell that they need to stick together. Campbell goes along with the plan until Tyler threatens to fire them both. Campbell gives up Strickland. Strickland tells them that they are going to fight after school. Campbell thinks he is jesting but then realises he is serious. 

    By general consensus, everyone agrees that Campbell has no hope of winning a fistfight with Strickland. An unsavoury incident with Campbell and a student, seen by French teacher, Ms Monet (Christina Hendricks), has her believing that he needs more than a beatdown. She goes to Strickland and tells him to cut Campbell. Strickland declines.

    Campbell makes a deal with Neil, telling him to recant the story so as Strickland can get his job back. His plan works but Strickland is not happy. He does not want his job back. He wants to fight. Actions have consequences. 

    Campbell calls the police and tells them that another teacher has threatened to fight him. The dispatcher laughs at him. Getting increasingly desperate, Campbell decides to plant drugs on Strickland. The police show up but cannot find the drugs that he planted in Strickland’s case. 

    Strickland catches him and is about to fight him but Campbell calls the police back into the room. They both get arrested. Campbell is furious that he will probably miss his daughter’s show and the birth of his child. He gets another inmate to attack Strickland. Strickland puts the man to sleep.

     They get released as the ‘drugs’ Neil sold Campbell was actually aspirin. Campbell rushes back to the school for his meeting. They make him wait. Campbell finds out he was made to wait because Tyler and the superintendent, Johnson (Dennis Haysbert) were talking about Johnson’s vacation. They tell him that they cannot make any more cutbacks and his job is safe. 

    Campbell asks what cutbacks they are going to make. Tyler tells him it does not concern him. Campbell is furious at being made to wait and also at the lack of respect his profession is shown. He goes to his daughter’s show. His daughter sings an inappropriately worded song to get back at a girl who is bullying her. 

   Campbell returns to the school to fight Strickland. They have an epic fight. Strickland eventually knocks him out. He wakes him up when Campbell gets a phone call from his wife. She is in labour. Strickland takes him to the hospital. The fight goes viral and brings attention to the plight of education in the school system. Tyler reinstates all of the teaching staff. Campbell gains the respect of the students. The end. 

    Fist Fight is a highly enjoyable comedy from the pen of Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. Directed by Richie Keen, Fist Fight is a ridiculous premise executed brilliantly. Charlie Day and Ice Cube are great as teachers with opposing views. Though Ice Cube is pretty much the same character in every film he is in, in this particular film it works perfectly, his permanent mister T shtick made for this film. 

    Day is great also as the initially spineless Campbell. His demeanour, especially after the fight is set, seems, to a civilised mind, reasonable. But when Strickland lays out his simple reasoning for the fight, the route of discourse is eradicated. They have to fight. 

    At ninety-one minutes long, Fist Fight is pretty much the perfect length for a comedy. Though the humour will not tickle everybody, this reviewer found the film not only funny – quite important in a comedy – but laugh out loud in parts. 

    Fist Fight is by no means high art or even a clever comedy. What it is is funny and that is the minimum requirement for a comedy. An amusing ninety minutes. 

Peppermint – a review (Prime)

    It was as far back as Luc Besson’s 1990 Nikita where the popularity for a lone wolf, female assassin/vigilante/superspy probably begun. There had been female action films and television before that. The seventies had Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson, in Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones respectively. 

   Those two movies were part of the blaxploitation explosion of the seventies and, outside of the black community and film buffs, are probably not as well known as the likes of Nikita and, more recently, Atomic Blonde. 

   The niche genre has been popular and lucrative with the likes of 2010’s Angelina Jolie starrer Salt, 2014’s Lucy, another Luc Besson effort starring Scarlett Johansson, and even 2011’s Hanna with Saoirse Ronan. Some of the films have been popular enough to have spin-off television shows; Nikita, Hanna, the female-led actioner being even more popular on television. 

   A film I watched recently on Amazon Prime, a departure from my normal Netflix obsession, was Peppermint starring Jennifer Garner. Better known for the poorly received and executed, early Marvel character film, Elektra, Garner probably got the Elektra gig on the back of her starring role in Alias.

    The J. J. Abrams show ran for five seasons, with Garner playing Sydney Bristow, a woman recruited straight out of college to be a super spy. In the strangely named Peppermint, Garner is Riley North, a widowed mother. When her husband, Chris (Jeff Hephner), is offered a chance to make a lot of money by stealing money from the local drug dealer, he declines.

    Unfortunately, the dealer, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), finds out that Micky (Chris Johnson) plans to steal from him. He also believes Chris is in on the job. He tortures and kills Micky. Cortez (Ian Casselberry) is watching Chris. He tells Garcia that he knows where he is. Garcia says to kill him. 

    Cortez and his crew shoot Chris and their daughter, Carly (Cailey Fleming) as they drive by. Riley, who lagged behind because she was buying a gift for the daughter, watches as they get killed. She is grazed by a bullet as she runs to toward them.

After spending a month in a coma, she awakens and tells detective Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) that she knows who killed her family. Carmichael’s partner, detective Moises Beltran (John Ortiz), warns him about getting involved with any case related to Garcia.

    They apprehend three of the gunmen and Riley identifies them. Riley is visited at her home by Henderson (Michael Mosley), the lawyer for Garcia’s men. He offers to pay her off. She refuses. At the court case, aided by Judge Stevens (Jeff Harlan), Henderson gets the men acquitted. Riley is furious and gets arrested for contempt of court. She escapes and disappears.

    Five years later she returns to LA and Garcia’s men start dying. She kills the gunmen, the judge, lawyer and goes after the drug houses. Detectives Carmichael and Ortiz find out she is back in LA and contact FBI agent, Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) who had been searching for her some years before. 

     They find out she has acquired a lot of military weapons and race to find her. Garcia also knows who she is after as well, needing to kill her as he is getting pressure from the Cartel drug lords. Riley continues to kill Garcia’s crew and then comes for him. He escapes and turns the tables on her, going to where she lives, amongst the vagrants and street kids, to find her.

    Riley returns to her patch and begins killing his men, even though she is hopelessly outnumbered. She sees that detective Gallagher is a crooked cop. Garcia threatens to kill one of the street kids in order to flush her out. Riley comes forward. Garcia beats her up but is prevented by killing her when the police turn up in numbers. 

    Garcia kills Gallagher and runs. Riley catches up with him and kills him and disappears. Beltran finds her by her family’s graves. She is arrested. Beltran visits her in the hospital where she is recovering, handcuffed to the bed, still under arrest. He gives her a key to the cuffs. The end. 

    Peppermint is an entertaining film, with Garner demonstrating her action chops once again. At one hundred minutes runtime, the film hurtles along at a good pace, Garner a strong enough lead in a revenge thriller by numbers. Written by Chad St. John, the script is serviceable, hitting all the necessary beats and allowing for directorial flourishes. 

    Directed by Pierre Morel, the film looks good and the action sequences are well executed. With the story very much following the old school Chinese kung fu film formula – ‘I trained for five long years to avenge my family!’ – Peppermint is Jennifer Garner’s film. You believe that she would and could become a determined, killing machine in the mode of Linda Hunt’s Sarah Connor. 

    Attractive enough for movies, whilst also being androgynous enough to sell the violence of some of the roles she has been in, Garner is the sole reason to watch this film. That is not to say that the other actors are bad, far from it. It is just that, except maybe Juan Pablo Raba’s Garcia, the rest of the characters are not particularly interesting and are mostly there to die or advance the plot. 

   Peppermint – still have no idea why it called that – is a good enough action film. Not as good as Atomic Blonde, but way better than Tomb Raider. Worth a look.