'Fight Club' Packs a Punch
The first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club. So much for the rules.
Those with heart conditions beware, this ride is not for you. "Fight Club" is a dark, shocking and at times brilliant tale of anarchy that leaves one disturbed and shaken, unsure of how they should react to what they have just seen.
Like "Three Kings," "Fight Club" explores the postmodern disillusionment and consumer culture of contemporary society, only more deeply and much more pessimistically.
The movie's unnamed narrator, played by Edward Norton, is caught in the modern male dilemma. He is a man living in a society of great economic prosperity, a time of no great wars or depressions and of no great moral causes. He becomes lost, has an overwhelming sense of meaninglessness and feels like more of a consumer than a person.
He furnishes his apartment in IKEA furniture, drinks Starbucks coffee, suffers from insomnia and attends support group meetings for diseases he doesn't have.
The movie's critique of a materialistic, superficial consumer culture gives way to its more anarchistic (this word is by no means meant lightly) viewpoint when the narrator meets soap maker Tyler Durden, played by a rather unhygienic Brad Pitt. The two create Fight Club, a forum where men bloody and bruise each other in order to feel alive and experience something of substance.
The club expands into an underground army dedicated to the collapse of the oppressive system, finally culminating in the film's surprising, unforgettable ending, which is on par with "The Sixth Sense."
For a big budget Hollywood film, "Fight Club" is overwhelmingly compact, with plot details that stream by the viewer in a hurried frenzy, and often proceed in a timeline as erratic as Helena Bonham Carter's eye makeup.
But it all works, as long as one pays attention. The result is a film that demonstrates the volatile possibilities for the destiny of a society that turns its citizens into numbers according to their monetary value.
Director David Fincher ("The Game," "Seven") masterfully handles the film's dark subject matter and the rich textual detail, marrying the visual style to content in wonderfully expressive ways, as if the narrator's voice is constructing the visual landscape.
Also, look for the two instances where Fincher intercuts a single frame of Pitt at discontinuous places in the film so that his image flashes by in the blink of an eye. Like many of the stylistic elements, it is a neat little trick, but it also holds significant meaning in the film.
It is difficult to imagine some conservative, right-wing organization not condemning "Fight Club." The film is excessively violent and unabashedly anarchistic. It presents violence as the means to an undesignated end, a shocking stand in a post-Columbine society.
Most importantly, "Fight Club" resists making judgments on the rebellious actions of its characters. Anarchy is not glorified, nor denounced, but rather presented as the natural end of a Starbucks-drinking, Big Mac-munching, Gap-wearing, television-zombied, entertainment-seeking, sick world.