Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fight Club

The Action Mutant…
is Jack’s screaming epiphany.

Fight Club

review by Joe Burrows

One of the more enduring mantras of Fight Club (other than the grossly overused “Do NOT talk about Fight Club!”) is Tyler Durden’s questioning the Narrator “How much can you know about yourself, you've never been in a fight?” I thought about this after watching the film and the resulting soul searching was a little odd. The A.M. has been involved in a few scuffles in his life and about the only thing I can come up with is that I never let on how hurt I really am (much like real life? Shit, why am I asking you?) I thought of my father and the mantra reiterated the fact that it took a lot to scare him. Not to get too much into it but the man was a part of several close calls. Frankly, it took imminent death to get him to react. Or, maybe he just never let on how hurt he really was. One of the things I regret about not growing up with the man is that he missed out on so many great movies. He would have loved Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs or Sin City or…well, this film.

The Plot, as it was:
Edward Norton (credited as The Narrator) is a nameless, white collar drone that is a chronic insomniac and totally empty inside, despite all of his trendy, worldly possessions. His life begins to change as he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), an enigmatic soap salesman that lives out of a dilapidated house and speaks of society’s consumerist nature. Together, they start fighting each other in the middle of parking lots to relieve stress and that brings about many others that are equally disenfranchised. Things are well until a woman from the Narrator’s past, a suicidal femme fatale named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), begins to affect the duo’s life. If that wasn’t enough, Tyler’s increasingly odd demands of his Fight Club members become less about fighting and more about something far grander in scale. And really…who is Tyler Durden?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
After the grim cult classic Se7en and twisty thriller The Game, director David Fincher foisted the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel (adapted screenplay by Jim Uhls) and helped create A Clockwork Orange for Generation X (though it eventually ends up being a far more different animal than that). Uninitiated folks will go on to say that the only similarity between the two films is the amount of ugly, nihilistic violence that permeates their surfaces. Once again, the point is missed amongst something that has been around before Biblical ages. Much like its distant British cousin, Fight Club is a story of a misguided young man that rallies against what is thought to be the basis of decency and walks the fine line between reality and fantasy. Both men are brainwashed by society but the Narrator’s plight in Fight Club is clearly more satirical. Norton conveys his wayward weariness and carries the film very well, considering he is in just about every scene. He’s the anchor of the movie, though the more show-offy role definitely goes to Pitt. He has fun with the role of Tyler and goes over the top with it but not so much so that it runs the entire movie off of the rails. In a canon of odd, against type roles, this may be Pitt’s most memorable (and I’m not gay but how can a man look so scummy yet pristine at the same time, like Pitt can?) There are several other memorable, wholly different elements, such as Carter’s delightfully off kilter Marla epitomizing that screwball girlfriend that we can’t help but to be drawn to. The black humor is definitely rich for those that can take it and the consequences that come about for the main characters are appropriately violent and are not shied away from. Fincher’s slick direction and the cyberpunkish score of The Dust Brothers add to the dark mood but that description shouldn’t be a detriment. Fight Club is not only a rollicking, violent ride but a cautionary tale of what is right and wrong with our society and livelihoods.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer for the rock band Live, is the waiter at Clifton’s.

Body Count/Violence: 14. Though not kill happy (the majority are done in during a plane crash sequence), Fight Club is nonetheless one nasty son of a bitch of a movie. Brutal beatings are mainly on the menu, with much flesh smacking and blood spluttering about. There are some gory aftereffects of gunplay, explosions and a car wreck but the fights are definitely the main attraction.

Sexuality/Nudity: Carter’s lithe, nude body is shown in the throes of passion in a (computerized) sex scene with Marla and the narrator. One of Tyler’s side jobs leads to some male genitals being briefly glimpsed (keep your eye out it right before the closing credits….or not). Thankfully, Bob Paulsen’s (Meat Loaf) affliction was kept under his sweatshirt.

Language/Dialogue: Occasionally strong but never constant. The sexual dialogue is a little more prevalent.

How bad was it?:
There didn’t seem to be any middle ground with Fight Club; it was either lauded as a modern day masterpiece or not. Of course, the majority of the negative reviews focused on the violent nature of the story. Say it with me…pussies.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Despite being one of the most talked about films in a year of them, Fight Club was not exactly a mainstream darling. 20th Century Fox distributed the film, though they delayed its release by several months (a big factor cited was that 800 lb. media gorilla known as “the fallout from Columbine”) and detested the violent content. However, when the studio heads became frustrated as to how to market the film, they decided to market…the violence! Whatever the factors, the $63 million film debuted on 10/15/99 and reached #1 that weekend with $11 million. It dropped in audience swiftly (probably when people realized it wasn’t a straight forward Action film) and ended up recouping barely half of its budget in the States, ending its run with $37 million. It ended up equaling its budget in foreign receipts and becoming a major seller when it hit DVD. The moral: Studio execs suck!

Film: *****/*****
Entertainment value: *****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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