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USA 1999
Directed by
David Fincher
139 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Fight Club

Anyone who has seen Fincher's previous films Seven (1995) and The Game, (1997), knows that he has a way with high-powered narratives with plenty of plot twists and a tendency to the macabre and mephitic delivered in a visually kinetic form (he earned his stripes making music videos for the likes of Madonna and Aerosmith). Fight Club holds no surprises in this respect with Fincher not only re-using his star from Seven, Brad Pitt, but also the same cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth.

The story is narrated by Edward Norton who relates in flashback his story as a cog-in-the-machine actuarial accountant living in an Ikea-furnished condo. His life is coming apart and he visits various self-help groups in order to experience vicarious unburdening. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Pitt) a soap-salesman with a disdain for consumer capitalism. And so begins his walk on the wild side.

I haven’t read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk on which the film is based but at least on the evidence here it appears to be a rather shallow fantasy of male empowerment: say good-bye to self-help groups, get together with a bunch of men and beat the crap out of each other. This premise escalates in the latter part of the film to a quite silly level but I can’t talk about that without giving the plot away.

There’s no doubt that the film is well-made. Fincher has style in spades, particularly with the seedy and degraded and he gives it his all here. Performances all round are excellent. Although an unlikely looking movie star, Norton is typically effective as the protagonist. A marvellously-buffed Brad Pitt reprising a toned-down version of his role in 12 Monkeys (1995), to which this film might be a prequel, enters with gusto into his role. And in the only female role Helena Bonham-Carter is quite superfluous to the story but anyone tired of her English Rose persona will find her transformation here into a chain-smoking slut a merciful change. 

Fight Club is as paper-thin conceptually as any testosterone-driven multiplex action movie but it is much more stylishly done and as a result has gained Gen X cult status.




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