Genre: Psychological Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 19 min.
Release Date: October 15th, 1999 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher Actors: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Meat Loaf Aday, Helena Bonham Carter, Holt McCallany, Jared Leto
he timid, unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) routinely attends a support group for men with testicular cancer, where he’s partnered with the oversized, hormone-mutated Bob (Meat Loaf Aday), whose open emotionality finally encourages the narrator to let go of his own restrained affectability. His recurring insomnia (the only condition from which he actually suffers) is cured through an addiction to support groups – he joins communions for incest survivors, Alcoholics Anonymous, and comparable therapeutic sessions for tuberculosis, bowel cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, blood parasites, and a wealth of other diseases he doesn’t have. The encouragement and backing he experiences for over a year are eventually shattered when Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), another faker that he dubs a “tourist,” starts encroaching on his meetings. They eventually agree to split the groups up (bowel cancer is their favorite), so as not to continue running into each other, thereby highlighting the duplicitous nature of their participation.
The narrator is a car recall coordinator, tasked with investigating the mathematics behind accidents. On one of his numerous flights across the country, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a carefree, cynical, soap salesman who takes notice of the narrator’s own brand of sarcastic cleverness. When his apartment blows up (blamed on a faulty pilot light), he decides to call up Tyler to meet him at a bar. Durden reveals that he’s a part-time projectionist and part-time hotel restaurant waiter – among other things – who likes to prank the patrons. Needing a place to stay, the narrator accompanies Tyler back to his enormous, dilapidated, abandoned building brimming with junk – but not before Tyler starts a fistfight in an empty parking lot for the sake of taking a punch. In time, every Saturday night sees a new series of fights, where startling numbers of people wish to participate in the barbaric sport – for sport. Eventually, the weekly conglomeration is given a few rules and a name: Fight Club.
Although the first (and second) rule of Fight Club is not to talk about the assembly, it ironically continues to grow. Chronicling the aggression, violence, and bloodletting that both fuels and releases pent-up emotions – or that simply make the participants feel alive amidst dreary blue-collar (and white-collar) existences – the film incorporates strange characters exhibiting antisocial behaviors. Despite the inclusion of wide-ranging, unusual topics and interplay (such as chemistry, religion, pain, revenge, philosophical inspections, anonymity, historical figures, rebellion, compelling messiahs, material possessions, hostile confrontations, sex, drastic motivation, criminalist enterprises, anarchical homework assignments, and, finally, terrorism), “Fight Club” finds humorousness in countless sinister scenarios. It’s a destructive, satirical, thought-provoking war between the working class and the officials of establishment. The frequently poetic dialogue largely borders on insane, observational ramblings that pluck out the hilarity of unexplored situations in oft-patronized locations, or the dismal realizations of deteriorating mental grasps on normal social interactions.
It’s creative, bizarre, and definitely unique. The special effects (including makeup effects) are convincing, with computer-generated props, appliances, buildings, words/graphics across the screen, and even digitally-augmented people. In a particularly memorable moment, the narrator beats himself up, recreating a significantly harsher version of the slapstick comedy routine from “Liar Liar.” The combination of abrasive symbolism with scathing wit, out-of-place visual elements with ambiguous connections, and a distinctive manipulation of the typical narrative timeline (including breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, or self-aware commenting on the usage of flashbacks) weaves a mystery of epic proportions.
But, like “The Usual Suspects” or “The Sixth Sense,” there’s a carefully guarded secret that ultimately defines the entire series of chaotic, cryptic clues. In a way, the final revelation dwarfs the individual scenes, mirroring the metaphorical conclusion of “How to Get Ahead in Advertising” (and even teetering dangerously toward the realm of science-fiction). While seemingly warning of the dangers of mob mentalities, dissatisfaction amplified by anger, blind loyalty, and the persuasive powers of mental instability, unsubtle subliminal messages pair with skewed perceptions to demonstrate overstressed stylization and a hopelessly circuitous plot – with a resolution that results in a movie that feels more like an eventual (or hopeful), influential cult classic than a serious exploration of identity, purpose, and existentialism.
– Mike Massie