Fight Club (DVD, 2007, Collector's Edition; Steelbook)

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Fight Club Write Off: It's All Here! (+ DVD Review)

Oct 15, 2000 (Updated Dec 11, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Brilliant Script / Perfect Performances / Hilarious, invigorating, endlessly entertaining ride / Incredible DVD production

Cons:Too violent for some

*****WARNING:***** In order to discuss Fight Club in a manner that I have not attempted before, I am revealing even the most crucial aspects of the film. If you have not yet experienced the wonderment that is Fight Club, please do so for yourself before reading any further.

The first rule of fight club is that in order to write a review of it, you must use a clever format pertaining to the film to prove you are worthy. Rules are meant to be broken.

Fight Club is David Fincher's testosterone fueled, philosophical revelation that I amazed was ever allowed to be made. As a finished product, Fight Club blatantly sheds light on everything that is horribly wrong with today's corporate run, consumer happy society that must be reformed before the quality of life descends straight to hell.

We were raised on television to believe that we'd all be millionares, movie gods, rock stars, but we won't. And we're starting to figure that out.

Truer words about Generation X, Y, or whatever letter you want to dub it have never been spoken.

The opening credit sequence of Fight Club immediately lets you in on the secret that this film is unlike anything you have ever witnessed before. With the Dust Brothers' pulse-pounding soundtrack kicking the speakers into high gear, the camera takes you on a journey through an intricate maze that you eventually discover is our Narrator's (Edward Norton) brain. Panning out from beads of sweat, hair follicles, and then to the gun being held in his mouth, we quickly learn that in just three minutes, corporate America, as we know it, will explode. Surely the film is not going to begin with this destruction; hence, we are quickly taken back through our Narrator's crystal-clear memory to discover just how this predicament came to be.

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy s*** we don't need. Need I say more?

Our Narrator is drifting through life, aimlessly, sleeplessly. He works a desk job for a major car company where he, like millions of other Americans, has become immersed in the gotta-have-it, consumer oriented marketplace of life. In one of the film's numerous technically ingenious sequences, he thumbs through an IKEA catalogue, picking out furniture for his apartment. As he sits on the toilet ordering furniture over the phone, we see his apartment being steadily populated by this furniture with each of their descriptions from the magazine graphically incorporated into the scene. You have got to see it to believe it.

With insomnia, you're never really asleep; you're never really awake. Remember this quote; we will come back to it later.

For the next thirty minutes or so of the film, our Narrator takes us through the phase of his life when he frequents many support groups for various problems from testicular cancer to brain tumors. Only when he is able to open up and pour out his emotions at these meetings is he able to sleep. This first "Act" is undoubtably the best and smartest thirty minutes of film from 1999.

If I had a tumor, I'd name it Marla.

Everything sails along smoothly until he encounters another "faker" or "tourist," Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), at many of the same groups. With any insincerity, besides of course his own, in the midst, our Narrator is no longer able to pour out his soul or thus get the sleep he needs to remain sane. He devises a plan to split the groups with Marla to avoid her, but soon a new man, a vision if you will, enters his life, and nothing else matters.

You are not your job. You are not the money in your bank account. You are not the car you drive. You are not how much money is in your wallet. You are not your f****** khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing cr*p of the world.

WARNING: In case you missed it the first time, stop reading NOW if you have not yet seen this film!

On a jet liner during one of his business flights (on a nude beach in the book, but the airplane works much better in the film), our hallucinating Narrator for once has an empty seat next to him. He is so used to discussing life's unimportant matters with single-serving friends in the neighboring seat that, on this occasion, he invents the perfect one to fill the void. Meet Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), our Narrator's appendage, everything he wishes he were but could never be until now. Of course it is not until the end of the film that we realize that Tyler is actually our Narrator's name, and Pitt's character is an illusion created by Tyler to bring new meaning to his otherwise droll life.

It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything.

Tyler, our Narrator's new self, is, in a sense, philosophy personified. The boisterous voice of Tyler's subconscious has woken up from Tyler's lack of sleep, and it is ready to erupt, or fight if you prefer. Tyler set his apartment to explode while he was out of town (though he has difficultly admitting to himself that he did it) and thus has an excuse to move into a cheap, shackled house where he will be able to carry out the plans that have been stirring in his subconscious. He has now lost everything, leaving him free to begin anew.

How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?

Never having experienced a beating or the rush of pounding another, Tyler steps out into the parking lot of a bar and proceeds to fight himself. Understandably this radical step in his plan attracts a number of onlookers, many of whom soon buy into Tyler's philosophy. Hence the beginning of an underground fight club where this unsatisfied generation raised on false beliefs gets the opportunity to unleash its anger. Rules are established, participation mushrooms, and soon fight clubs are established all over America.

Marla was like that cut on the roof of your mouth that would go away if you'd stop tonguing it, but you can't.

Tyler does not like Marla and does not want her around. His subconscious, on the other hand, has a undefined connection to the woman, an unhealthy enjoyment of her presence. When he lets this part of him dominate his actions, Tyler involves himself (albeit mostly physically) with Marla. When he "wakes up," he does not remember being with her and wants her out of his life. Upon your first viewing of the film, before you understand this double entendre, Marla appears irrational and demented. But once you understand the true duality of Tyler's character, Marla appears in an entirely new light as perhaps the most sane character in the film.

We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of shopping. There's nothing to kill anymore, there's nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that social emasculation this everyman is created.

Our consumer driven society, stimulated by advertising, has unfairly deemed inappropriate the primitive hunter / gatherer instincts of the common male. Tyler preaches this message to his newfound group of followers, his "space monkeys," who soak up every word he speaks. His Fight Clubs have gradually taken on a life of their own, now acting as underground terrorist organizations. Tyler is beginning to sense that this club he created is growing totally out of control. His subconscious has been taking over longer and longer each day, and he has effectually lost any possible control he may have had over his life.

With insomnia, you're never really asleep; you're never really awake. Yes, we are back here again.

Tyler finally comes to realize what has been going on. Away from his support groups, his insomnia returned without him realizing it. His life has been turned into a living nightmare by, none other than, himself! He must put a stop to it immediately. He goes to the police, but they are in on the plan. He admits to them that it has all been a terrible mistake and that as its leader, he is prepared to end it all right now. Of course as his other self, he has already told them that he would say this, and so they are prepared to stop him at all costs. That subconscious of his sure is devilish.

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

At this point, Tyler has no idea just how many "space monkeys" have bought into this message. It started with anger-unleashing fights, it escalated into random acts of vandalism, and it now plans to destroy corporate America, credit card company's headquarters to be exact. If you erase the debt records, then everyone gets to start over. Financial freedom in what was perceived to be an incorruptible system. Tyler is not going to harm people, just the system. The buildings have been evacuated as the employees are in on the trick. How is that for organization?

This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time

At this moment in particular, the same place from which we started, Tyler is bound and gagged while his subconscious holds a loaded handgun in his mouth. But wait, if Tyler knows that his subconscious is holding the gun, then it is actually in his own hands! Ah, he is figuring it all out now. The gun appears in Tyler's hand. He aims it right back at his head again. If he destroys the brain where his subconscious survives, he will put an end to the hallucination all together. No matter what he manages to do in this respect, his destruction cannot be stopped. With a bullet hole in his brain and Marla in his arms, the two of them watch the bombs ignite and the buildings explode through the window.

There are no happy endings here. Or is it actually a happy ending after all? You decide.

Only a few years ago, Chad Palahniuk wrote Fight Club, the fascinating, groundbreaking novel that has already become a cult-classic. With its relatively faithful big screen adaptation by screenwriter Jim Uhls and superb direction by David Fincher, the near perfect novel does lose any of its flair. He gained popularity with his critically applauded thrillers, Seven and The Game, but Fight Club is his masterpiece that has catapulted him into Hollywood's elite class of big budget directors.

Brad Pitt (Kalifornia, Seven) and Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X, Rounders) make for an impeccable pair to play the character of Tyler Durden. Underneath his macho, poster boy image, Pitt has proven once and again that he is an outstanding actor. In his best performance to date, he turns Tyler's subconscious into an always believable, horrifically real, and darkly funny force with which to be reckoned. Edward Norton continues to prove why he is far and away the best actor working in Hollywood today. Every complicated detail of his character is perfectly convincing; from his first scene of narration on, he never misses a single beat.

Working well apart from her usual genre of period pieces and romance films, English actress Helena Bonham Carter (Wings of the Dove) delivers an under-appreciated gem of a performance as Marla. In our first viewing of the film, Marla appears to be terribly unbalanced, uncaring, and in many instances, a flat out nut. Once you learn the twist ending, her motivations for actions that originally appear irrational are actually quite understandable. Carter's character is extraordinarily complex, well beyond the range of most actresses. With her incredible talents, she makes it look easy.

In another noteworthy supporting role, musician and aspiring actor, Meat Loaf turns in a funny and passionate performance as Robert Paulsen. A sufferer of Testicular Cancer, Bob has developed massive breasts between which he squeezes Tyler's head early in the film. He abandons his support group when he discovers the fight clubs which give him a new purpose to life. Shot by police officers during Project Mayhem, the vandalism antics in which he becomes involved, his death serves to awaken Tyler's old self. Do you realize that Bob is the only person (note counting Tyler's subconscious) to die in the entire film?

With unconventional editing (four flashes of Pitt before he "meets" Tyler in the airport plus the famous bit spliced into the end), invigorating direction, and a hands down brilliant script to compliment its amazing performances, Fight Club is a modern classic that stands up for many repeat viewings.

10 out of 10

Rated R for extreme violence, language, and sexuality

DVD Extras: The DVD presentation of Fight Club has become the measuring stick for all future DVD releases. The first disc holds the film itself, presented in amazing sound and picture clarity in 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. To supplement the film, this disc also includes an incredible four commentary tracks from the likes of David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Uhls, Chad Palahniuk, and many more. The second disc includes seven deleted scenes which can be viewed with informative commentary from Fincher, numerous television spots and trailers, a transcript of an interview of Norton at Yale, many featurettes that can often be viewed from multiple angles, art galleries, production galleries, an On Location short, and cast and crew bios. Just about any feature that you could possibly ask for is included on these discs. While Fight Club does not top my list of the best films of all time, it is certainly the unprecedented pride of my DVD collection.

Other participants in this write-off:
Bill_Chambers
Dark_Spectre
Donlee_Brussel
JackSommersby
KingpinLJC
Lars_Lindahl
Memento-Mori
Psychovant
steveaz1
Trotterman

Please check out their reviews as well!


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