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Fight Club (1999)

Mischief. Mayhem. Soap.

Directed by:

David Fincher

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 139 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

I can remember being completely blown away by ‘Fight Club’ the first time I saw it. It’s not the film it’s billed as – if it was, it would boil down to little more than nigh-on two-and-a-half hours of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton beating the living snot out of each other. That’s not to say it has nothing to do with fighting. Hell, I struggle to think of ANY movie that depicts underground bare-knuckle punch-ups quite as graphically as this one (and yes, that includes ‘Every Which Way But Loose’). But it’s also about much, much more than that.

Norton – whose character’s name is kept from us for reasons that don’t become apparent until the climax – plays a seemingly average everyday schmo whose materialistic love of all things Ikea can’t cover-up for the fact that a gaping chasm exists in his life. Slightly weirdly, his only pleasure comes from regular visits to various touchy-feely support groups (where he meets, among others, a bitch-titted Meat Loaf). But it’s only when he meets the rugged and confident Tyler Durden (Pitt) that his life suddenly begins to take on a sense of purpose.

Before long the pair are squatting in the same dilapidated mansion and, more importantly, have caused something of a stir among the local male population with their formation of the club of the title. Blokes come from miles around to join in the man-on-man batterings, and it starts to look like our two lead characters have built themselves something of an army.

Performance-wise, this represents the highlight of Pitt’s career, and is the film that finally saw him arrive as a “proper” actor, rather than just a pretty boy fancied by all the girlies. Norton, of course, is always terrific, and has a couple of fantastic darkly-comical scenes in which it’s himself he’s beating up – which really doesn’t look all that easy.

This is a tremendous story (adapted from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk) with a cracking twist and some masterful direction from Se7en and ‘The Game’ helmsman David Fincher. He strikes a good balance between bringing his own distinct style to the screen and maintaining the primary importance of the plot, and also keeps things moving at pace all the way through with the result that it feels considerably shorter than it actually is.

If there’s a weak point, it’s probably that there’s just no way this stuff could actually happen in the real world in which it’s supposed to be set. How many of us would really volunteer to join a club where you arrive home every night looking like a Premiership footballer’s missus? And, indeed, how many of us would allow ourselves to be brain-washed so easily by that club’s leader? Are we REALY supposed to believe no dissenters exist?

But those are minor quibbles on a movie that seems destined to be looked back upon as one of the best of the 90s. Having now watched it several times since that first viewing, I’ve come to appreciate just how much depth there is to the whole thing, and reckon I could still do with catching it a few more times in order to truly appreciate it. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

It's Got: Meat Loaf mercifully keeping his shirt on.

It Needs: Someone to be put in charge of First Aid.

DVD Extras This 2-disc special edition contains a fairly interesting audio commentary from Fincher and the main cast members, several featurettes with multi-angle function, six deleted scenes, an interview with Edward Norton, trailers & TV spots, a Dust Brothers music vid, an art gallery, original artwork & storyboards, and five Internet spots. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10

Alternatives:

Se7en, The Game

Summary

It’ll take a few viewings to get a real grip of what’s going on – but don’t beat yourself up over it. ‘Fight Club’ is definitely worth it.

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