Fight Club

Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
October 15, 1999

Usually, the ratings justification given by the MPAA is pretty vague. For example, The Story of Us was rated "R for language and brief sexuality," which meant that they said the F-word a lot and did a little of what that word describes. For Fight Club, they specifically mention "disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior." I knew I would like this movie.

Edward Norton plays Jack, a low-level executive for a car company, who cannot sleep. Actually, "Jack" is just the name given in the IMDb*, in the film he is only known as "The Narrator". He decides to go to different support groups for cancer, alcoholism, etc., just so he can have an emotional release, and finally get to sleep. He finds a different road to serenity when he meets soap-maker Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on one of his many flights.

They meet again on the ground, and start a little social club. To regain their masculine spirits, they fight each other, and other men eventually join in. Pretty soon, "Fight Club" turns into a large underground movement, with Tyler and Jack at the head of it. Tyler keeps trying to take it to the next level, and Jack reluctantly follows.

But, to describe this film with so few words doesn't give it justice. Indeed, even the trailer doesn't show you its profound nature. It's a sort of twisted amalgamation of Lord of the Flies and Taxi Driver and other stories whose mere mention would give away too much. Several films this year have had wildly surprising twists at the end, including Arlington Road and The Sixth Sense. None of them compares to the wallop that this film lays on you. And the lasting impact is even more severe than The Blair Witch Project.

Aside from these elements that can be compared to other films, the content of this film is exceptional. Right from the beginning, a robust sense of dark humor is shown. There are more laughs than many supposed comedies that have come out lately. They even dare to break the "fourth wall" by reminding you that you are watching a film. In fact the concept of film becomes very important, since one of Tyler's many side jobs is as a projectionist. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls must have big brass balls to make this film. And kudos to Fox for producing such a daring project. It probably wouldn't have been made without Brad Pitt attached to it, and his casting turns out to be perfect, almost necessary for the film to work artistically.

What was most amazing was that this film actually managed to get an "R" rating. It is very intense, and definitely not for the weak of heart or stomach. Then again, ol' Brad can't always make chick flicks to appeal to his fan base.

*Addendum - June 10, 2000
The IMDb has since changed Edward Norton's character name to "The Narrator", as it appears in the film's credits. However, the DVD materials often refer to him as "Jack", since "The Narrator" is a little too cumbersome for a name. For a capsule review of the two-disk DVD set, check out the Video Pick from June 7, 2000.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Fight Club (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Fight Club (1999) -- VHS
Fight Club (1999) -- DVD
Fight Club, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk -- Paperback
Fight Club, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk -- Audio Cassette (read by J. Todd Adams)
Fight Club: Original Motion Picture Score, by The Dust Brothers -- Compact Disc


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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan