At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Fight Club

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Drama-Thriller/ Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helen Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto, Zach Grenier, Holt McCallany, Eion Bailey, Mark Fite/ Runtime: 139 minutes

I think it is safe to say dear reader that the film-going community can be successfully split into a trio of distinct categories: there are those who love Fight Club, there are those who despise it, and then there are those out there who sadly have not had the chance to experience this movie phenomenon at this time. Indeed to say you are neutral towards it is quite difficult if not borderline impossible I’m afraid. As you may have guessed dear reader I am a member of the first group. Indeed I would go so far as to say that Fight Club is one of the most unique films I have ever seen. This is because alongside giving moviegoers a rather…..unique look at how to view life, this is also a film which manages to showcase its given subject material in a way that I don’t think had been done before. Yet for me, I think that I would have to say that what drew me to the movie is that, in my particular opinion, this is not a movie that gives us a cast of characters to really ponder on. Instead it makes us ponder and really scrutinize the actions and choices that these characters make instead. Indeed I will even go on the record to say that I do not think I have ever encountered another film that, much in the same vein as this one, ever managed to get me to put my disbelief on pause in the final act yet also ensured that I was able to understand that there was no wiggle room to possibly let the disbelief creep back in. Indeed I think it is safe to say that to the movie goer who chooses to disregard the film and its plot as being yet another Hollywood product that has its more than copious share of violence then these words might not make that much sense. A tragic thing really because honestly this is not a film that’s main concentration is on the concept known as violence. Rather I would say that Fight Club is more of a potently hostile, antagonistical, and often animalistic satire that is also an incredibly vivid look at what would happen if you took the “Choose life,” anti-consumer speech given by Ewan McGregor in the Trainspotting films, and then chose to take it all the way to its natural albeit wild and insane-stricken endgame. Indeed this may be a big budget & surprisingly mainstream film that takes a lot of risks by choosing to go after the concepts and ideas that are on its list, but boy does its talented cast and crew have a lot of guts for doing just that and sometimes guts is all you need to turn a product such as this into something that is truly iconic.

The plot is as follows: Fight Club tells the story of an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city. Suffice it to say that life is as rote and one-note as it could be for our intrepid hero. Indeed not only is he a small little cog in his workplace, just doing his job and all the requirements it entails with no questions or reservations, but he also is an insomniac zombie that finds himself tied at the hip to all of his possessions that he has gotten from IKEA or stores like that. In fact the only solace that he is able to find is in by attending as many self-help/ group therapy sessions as he possibly can during the week because it gives him a chance to cope with his lack of sleep every night. That is, until a sleazy, smokes at least 3 packs in an hour pretender by the name of Marla Singer proceeds to find her way into his life and manages to throw him completely for a curve. Thankfully this is rectified by the narrator around the same time crossing paths with an intriguingly charming soap seller by the name of Tyler Durden, a guy whose confidence, laser-sharp honesty, and slightly sordid outfits that make him look like an 80’s drug kingpin really become an odd source of inspiration to the narrator and the two quickly form a bond of sorts.

However one night, following a marathon beer drinking session, Tyler asks our hero to do something rather unusual; he asks him to hit him as hard as he can. Now I know you’re most likely thinking that this really is quite the unusual request, and you would not be mistaken for thinking that. Yet following our dynamic duo pummeling the heck out of each other for a little bit, an odd sensation washes over them. A sensation that takes the form of them actually feeling a sense of both peace and contentment towards strickening each other with physical pain. Indeed it is a wee bit ironic that in this world where individuals are numb to everything and everyone that crosses their paths that the act of fighting each other would be the thing to make them feel whole again. Yet soon other men are interested and it isn’t long before Fight Club is born and shortly thereafter becomes quite the phenomenon. However it isn’t long before the narrator begins piecing together that Tyler might have way more complicated and complex plans for this idea that stretch past petty brawls in a bar basement and which could involve way more than 2 men duking it out…..

Now David Fincher has managed to take the pitch-black and nihilist outlook that he utilized to wonderful effect in his crime thriller Seven and paired it up with the ingenious plot twists and curves in the road that were used brilliantly in his 1997 thriller The Game and the end result truly is a fantastic and wonderful effort. Indeed Fight Club is an at-least 50-million independent film yet one that has the backing of A-List stars, and made by a top-tier director, and which was released by a major studio. Yet even with those aspects attached for the purposes of attracting audiences to watch the movie, the film still manages to stay committed to its’ anti-message all the way through to the final frame just before the credits begin to roll. What ultimately makes this film a kind of twisted joy to watch however, is not only its distinct anti-corporate philosophy it wears like a badge of honor, but in how it extols that message on to the viewer as well. Indeed this is a film that contains a very lively narrative structure due to how joyously and chaotically it manages to screw around with the concept of time to a phenomenal degree. Indeed this is one film which manages to go all over in the manner of someone either switching channels on the TV on a boring, rainy day or who is just randomly surfing the Web. Yet even when the movie threatens to derail itself with this oddball narrative structure, we thankfully get a quite droll and wry narration given to us by Edward Norton which not only keeps everything from falling apart, but also enables the movie goer to get a grip on just what exactly is going on in the film. Thus we get a method that, although not utilized often, quite honestly should be. I mean why should we as a film-going audience always have to be treated to the same old style of “A+AB+C” when that really does become dull so often? Thankfully, Fight Club chooses not to use this old-school playbook. Instead the film chooses to offer up a stylistic smorgasbord of jump cutting, freeze-framing, slow-motion techniques among others hoping that these will be able to support the chaotic message the film’s narrative is trying to convey and it’s a gamble that pays off big time.

Now I will be honest with you movie goer: I do not think this movie, or honestly any particular one like it, would ever get the green light if it didn’t have a name on the level of Brad Pitt’s in the top-billing. Indeed the moment you see the film you will also see how Pitt really truly was the only person who could have brought the role of Tyler Durden this vividly to life. Indeed, much in the same vein as his roles in both Kalifornia and Twelve Monkeys, Pitt manages to dirty himself up and vanish completely into the part he is playing to an incredible extent. Indeed during a few of this film’s downright ruthless combat scenes, he is actually turned into such a piece of human hamburger that it will have girls who adore him for his looks crying in terror and sadness. Nevertheless though this is truly one of the more iconic performances that Pitt has ever given, and in a career on the level that he has had that is saying something. Now if Pitt is the unconventional and off-the-wall yin to this two-sided coin of madness, then Edward Norton is the perfect yang in his turn as the timid yet also wry narrator. Indeed it may seem like this is a very reserved and one-note performance, but trust me when I say there is more to this character than meets the eye and Norton manages to capture this spectacularly well. Indeed this character is most certainly meant to be our guide through this tour of a mad, mad world and his quippy yet intelligent insights into how the world around us is becoming more and more fixated on what we own are absolutely spot-on. Indeed not only that, but they are the perfect opening act for when the film after 20-25 minutes finally does introduce Tyler and his perspective on the world around him which we slowly, but surely are able to figure out is very much the antithesis of what our consumer-fixated narrator believes thus making their dynamic that much more intriguing and compelling. Also doing wonderful work is Helen Bonham Carter. Indeed to say that her role of Marla Singer is a critical component to this film working is an understatement. Yet even with that much pressure hanging overhead, Carter still delivers a performance that is both electrifying and yet just slightly repulsive all at the same time. That and it also shows us just where the team behind Harry Potter got the idea to cast her in the role of Bellatrix, but I digress. Heck even the smaller roles in this such as Meat Loaf, who apparently would do this for love, and Jared Leto, back from his 30 Second trip to Mars, also manage to do wonderful work in creating distinct yet equally as quirky characters to really help populate this mad, mad world and show that Tyler Durden and the narrator perhaps aren’t the only crazies out there; rather they’re just part of a much bigger universe….

All in all Fight Club is a potent and powerful film that also manages to moonlight as a celluloid punch and kick to the gut. This is because this is a movie which manages to violently stir up what we think we know about the world around us whilst attempting to open the eyes of individuals who have found themselves diving repeatedly in to the section of the world where materialism is king and those who possess the most material goods come out on top. Indeed I am of the opinion that this is a movie that wants to tear people down, toss aside the corporate world, and challenge each and every one of us to try to determine just what it is we all want out of life and the world around us. Indeed in a weird way it almost feels like this movie is trying to convey that, for some, salvation might only be accomplished through the act of self-demolition. Thus it is through these extremely intriguing ideas as well as fantastic work from a terrific cast and a director and crew at the peak of their abilities that Fight Club becomes a film that could be quite hazardous in the manner that it manages to entertain you and make you think in equal measure…just always remember the first rule of Fight Club. It may be important….On a scale of 1-5 I give Fight Club a solid 4 out of 5.