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Fight Club
1999 - R - 139 Mins.
Director: David Fincher
Producer: Ross Grayson Bell and Cean Chaffin
Written By: Jim Uhls
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier
Review by: John Ulmer

Do you think he likes himself?
Everybody loves this movie. Except me.

It's not bad. David Fincher's "Se7en" is one of my all-time favorite films, dark and moody, impressive and led by two powerhouse performances. "Fight Club" is a lot like "Se7en," at least in terms of style, but--for me--it lacks the narrative punch of the former and the moral message. (I love the end quote: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part.")

"Fight Club" is original, it seems, purely for the sake of being original. It is an odd story told with odd style. Its roots stem from a very strange book and was interpreted on screen just as strangely. Perhaps "Odd Club" would be a better name for this film. It's very dark, stylish, and demented, and pretty fun, but I expected so much when I saw this film that it let me down a lot. I suppose another thing that made me shrug off the film more so than others was the fact that I had unintentionally guessed the "surprise twist" of an ending a mile away. (About forty-five minutes in I knew where it was going, sadly.)

Edward Norton (credited as The Narrator?) plays a troubled young man on the verge of insecurity and insanity, whose shrink tells him to visit a testicular cancer meeting so he can realize just how bad his life could be. Norton does this, and in seeing how bad life can really be, does indeed immediately value his own current life much more. So, refreshed and fully appreciative once more, Norton decides to continue going to these meetings for different diseases.

Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane, a man who deals in soap (soap which is actually made out of liposuction fat), and works as a film projecter at a theater--where he splices images of pornography at children's movies. (Squeamish people, or those easily offended, should avoid this club.)

Yep, Tyler is a sick man, and Norton's character looks up to him. Tyler gives Norton his phone number, then they leave the plane and go their separate ways.

Later, Norton's apartment blows up after a freak accident, and so he calls Tyler to ask if he can stay there. Tyler says "yes," and Norton goes over to Tyler's busted-ol'-apartment in the middle of, what seems, a ghetto.

Bored beyond belief, the men eventually form an undercover "fight club," called, well, you guessed it: "Fight Club." In this underground club, there are a few rules, most of which are the repeated lines, "Never tell anyone about the fight club." People battle it out, punching and fighting each other to release stress from everyday life.

Soon the fight club is the new hit, and the two men are respected individuals, until Tyler starts going crazy and attempts to blow up a skyscraper, and Norton must stop him...and learn a terrifying secret.

The performances alone well make "Fight Club" worth seeing, but there isn't much more past the surface. The story is similar to "The Sixth Sense" in two ways--it's both about people who realize they aren't who they thought they were (or WHAT they thought they were), and I guessed the endings of both films very early on. And I also think they are both very, very overrated. ("Fight Club" currently stands as #43 on the IMDb top 250, and made its way onto many Best-of-the-Year lists in 1999.)

Norton is excellent, first of all, and his performance is simply amazing. He's a repressed everyman who learns to let loose and take back his life.

Brad Pitt is the knockout, however, as the disturbed but somewhat iconic Tyler Durden, whose "cool level" rivals Ferris Bueller. The guy is untouchable, with a sly sense of humor and some great speeches. Too bad the film itself is way too shallow to hand such complex characters.

Seriously, what's the point? A depressed guy learns that beating up people in a seedy underground ring and becoming best buddies with a sick, twisted guy who gets his kicks from showing images of pornography to children is somehow refreshingly noble? As the credits began to role, I had to ponder...what's all the fuss about?

Fincher's cinematography is certainly commendable, but it feels like a copy of "Se7en"--and perhaps even his earliest effort, "Alien3."

But apart from intelligent, deep characters and a pretty good filming style (even if it's too dark at times), "Fight Club" disappointed me. Perhaps if I saw it again I'd like it better. Maybe. But I just felt disappointed after seeing it the first time.

I don't really care a whole lot about the violence in the film (though it has affected some since its release--teens have opened up their own Fight Clubs). What I care about is how Fincher seems only to be making something controversial for the sake of being controversial.

If you like David Fincher's other work, I'd suggest you see this film. If you don't, I wouldn't recommend it. I loved "Se7en," and "The Game" was okay, so I expected a lot from "Fight Club." I suggest you go into this film expecting the worst movie of the year, and you'll probably love it. High expectations equal low results. I've learned that one too many times.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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