Fight Club

"Can I be next?"

Pre-release buzz is not directly proportionate to film quality. Take two recent films, for example: The Blair Witch Project and Fight Club. Both were hyped tremendously; the former was touted as the scariest film of all time while the latter was supposedly a sure-fire Oscar contender. Well, all I can say is no frickin’ way. Blair Witch, contrary to what some cretins claimed, was barely even creepy and Fight Club, well…

It is exceedingly difficult to give a brief synopsis of the plot, which is busy and convoluted, becoming less and less linear as it rambles along. I’ll wind up describing it in detail, so if you don’t want that much information you might as well skip the next three paragraphs. Consider yourself warned. ¦ For those of y’all who have decided to remain for my makeshift plot description, listen carefully. We meet Jack (Edward Norton), the man who is to guide us through the rest of the movie. Jack is a troubled soul, an insomniac who takes solace in going to support groups he doesn’t belong to, just so he can cry and get his true feelings out. He is hampered by his soul-deadening job and joyless existence; he spends his free time trying to figure out which piece of Ikea merchandise defines him as a person.

Everything changes in one weird day. On a plane he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), an angry-at-the-world soap salesman who leaves an impression on him. When he returns to his condo, he finds that it has exploded. How no one seems to know. For some reason, he calls up Tyler, who agrees to let Jack stay with him at his old, beaten-up shack of a home. In the parking lot one day, Tyler encourages Jack to hit him as hard as he can. This leads to a fight. Before Jack knows it, he and Tyler have started an underground fight club, in which men like Jack (i.e. opressed by society) can take their anger out by kicking the crap out of others. Jack and Tyler make up rules, homework assignments and the like and their endeavor becomes unexpectedly popular, with franchises reportedly starting up all over the country.

Before long, the fight club turns into “Project Mayhem,” a sinister organization of brainwashed drones all working toward a secret goal unknown to Jack. Jack wants out, but is he in too deep?

My main problem with Fight Club is that its mood and screenplay suggest an important film with something socially significant to say when in reality it’s paper-thin stuff. It’s alleged message about men following their primal instincts crumbles and falls apart when subjected to the slightest of scrutiny. In fact, what this film tries to say is prepostrous: men are “womanized” by Ikea and office work and respond by releasing their suppresed anger in the form of violence. Is the movie glorifying this?

Just because the film is hollow doesn’t mean it’s bad. But to be worthwhile without being significant means that it has to be a viable thriller. It’s a diverting one because of its offbeat tone and pacing, but it isn’t good. Plot elements make no sense, especially when the film’s big secret is revealed. There is a similarity to The Sixth Sense in the surprise ending, but that film made it work because it remained consistent while Fight Club‘s ending does nothing but create plot holes big enough to drive a Zamboni through.

One thing I can wholeheartedly praise in Fight Club is the performances, which are outstanding. Edward Norton once again proves his ability to mold into any role given to him. Brad Pitt, at last, has the opportunity to impress us and he capitalizes. I’ve never liked the actor; I always thought that he made his characters dull and uninteresting with his mannerisms. Here, he is effectively menacing in a bizarre role, clearly trying to make the most of a chance to revive his lackluster career (he hasn’t had a hit since Se7en).

This is an engrossing, entertaining movie, original, visually kinetic and viscerally exciting. But you can show me as many weird and creative styles and ideas as you want, if you have nothing to say you result remains nothing more than a cheeky game, a piece of subversive nothing.

-- Eugene Novikov

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