Fight Club (1999) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language
Running Time: 139 min.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto
Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Jim Uhls (based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk)
Review published April 15, 2000
Anytime something brilliant and weird comes out, the lamest of lame critics bandy about terms like "masterpiece" and "genius", as if they are trying to ride some wave for the future so people don't look back and think they missed the boat. More often than not, these films become obscure cult classics like Blue Velvet rather than Citizen Kane. Fight Club is one of over a dozen films touted as a masterpiece by certain critics in the last year alone, and while it does sport some truly inspired concepts, brilliant moments and quality writing, just a few too many uneven and overlong moments are going to keep me from using any unwarranted hyperbole.
A soulless yuppie named Jack (Norton, American History X) searches for some meaning to his life other than his endless quest for material things, and soon stumbles upon some support groups to help people suffering from various ailments. He soon becomes addicted to the attention received there, and meets another phony named Marla (Carter, Mighty Aphrodite) who shares the same perverse passion.
He soon befriends a radical thinking soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Pitt, Meet Joe Black), and after Jack loses all his earthly possessions in an accident, the two discover powerful feelings in beating the crap out of each other. Soon others join in, and they start their own group of men who get together to wail on each other. The small group grows by leaps and bounds and soon they spring up all over the country, making a celebrity out of Tyler, who quickly becomes a messianic figure for the disenfranchised blue-collar ruffians. Soon Tyler goes beyond the Fight Club and forms a crack squad of terrorists plotting mischief among all the nation's corporations.
One hell of a gutsy movie it must be said, and while it goes astray a small number of times, it's a film worthy of most of the praise it has received. In addition, Pitt doesn't seem to have the acting ability (and I think he's a fine actor) to pull off his role successfully, although Norton is excellent. It's scathingly funny and unsettling satire, and a must-see for those who aren't squeamish about bloody fistfights for a plethora of funny scenes and memorable moments.
Is it a masterpiece? Not in my opinion, but pieces of it are classic, and if only the entire production were as successful and focused as these scenes, it certainly could have been. Those seeking another audacious comedy like Pulp Fiction won't be disappointed. Sure to be studied by the next generation for its technique and breaking of bounds.
©2000 Vince Leo