Review

FIGHT CLUB review

Published at: Oct. 12, 1999, 5:26 a.m. CST by headgeek

“We have been being raised by women our whole lives, I really don’t think another woman is the answer.” --- or something very close to that is the statement that I feel is at the very heart of what FIGHT CLUB is about.

But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Really, this review begins this evening out in the line for this film. It was Quint, Johnny Wad, Father Geek and I. We were looking at the folks in the line. A neck tourniquet wearing cell-phone-eared uptight screaming into his phone at some poor sap at the other end telling him that unfortunately he would not be getting his money transfer on time for an important mortgage payment. We felt that...

Wait... I’m still a bit ahead of myself, let’s go way back to the end of April. Columbine pops onto the map... I’m in the offices of Roger Ebert, we’re talking about how this incident was going to raise a billion phone calls and discussions about violence in cinema, and that was when I had my first serious conversation about FIGHT CLUB.

With Ebert we began talking about the cultural landscape at that point in time. We talked about ARLINGTON ROAD and FIGHT CLUB as being the next two blips on the radar screen in terms of raising the filmic issue of violence in cinema, and particularly how dangerous this would be with the current political climate. Both films were moved.

Months came by, ARLINGTON ROAD was released and closed with little more than a murmur... of course it also had a terrible advertising campaign and a very insignificant portion of society saw the film. It wasn’t aimed at the ‘hot spot’, the youth market. But as we move forward in time... it begins to become abundantly clear that FIGHT CLUB was being aimed at the exact generation that went nuts at WOODSTOCK 99. That raging generation that has scared the older crowd, made them suspicious and wary of this generation willing to answer the question, “what are you rebelling against?” with “What have ya got.”

And to feed to that generation a movie like FIGHT CLUB... well... my god, there’ll be riots in the street. Funny thing was... they said the same thing when films like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and THE WILD ONE came out all those years ago. Of course THE WILD ONE did cause some problems down in New Zealand at the time and the police there did end up killing a few kids that wore black leather coats like Marlon Brando’s.... though the black leather coat kids killed none.

The past 4 months have been an exercise in watching the sociological bomb that I believed was FIGHT CLUB, ticking beneath the sun-cracked picnic table of America. Was the film going to splinter this country into divisive sects? The older and the younger? As the ticking became faster and the moments till exhibition came closer... the fear became tangible. So much so... that the mere mention of the film sent me on a rampage of anticipatory doomsday crying. Screaming about Violence taxes and Cultural Committees and the destroying of the MPAA.

Then the film played at Venice. Three reviews emerged. Variety, Alexander Walker and our own Bosnian Witch Doctor. Variety and the Witch Doctor both loved the film with every fibre of their being, but Alexander Walker’s opinion was the one that most interested me. It was the kneejerk reaction I was looking for... awaiting... expecting.

Congress is filled with people like Alexander Walker that believe certain knowledge, sights and sounds should be available for the... educated of society. That the mass.... the teeming mob of common society hasn’t the glimmer to handle or grasp a film like this, they may run naked in the streets burning it all, and that we... the elite of society... should deal out the cards that they should be allowed to touch, for ‘their’ own good of course... Keeping all the spades for ourselves.

In England, there is already a push for this film to be banned. Similar feelings have been spreading here and there. Once again I got tense.

Screenings have continued. Recently the screenings in New York and Los Angeles hit and the word spread of social irresponsibility. That the film should not be allowed out. That 20th Century Fox has alot to answer for. The film was the talk of many lips at the Screenwriter’s Festival here in Austin this past weekend. I spent an hour or two with Scott Frank and Callie Khouri discussing this film. And everyone listening in... was a tad afraid of the reaction from the powers that be... from this film. Would it push through unnecessary rigid governmental controls or taxations? Would this be the excuse to shut the whole ball of wax down and melt it all to make standard candles instead of artful bronzes?

That brings me back to that guy on the cell phone leaning against the clear glass exit doors at the General Cinemas Barton Creek theater here in Austin, Texas this evening. Our little sect is sizing him up as being the unhappy worker ant following the scent in and out of the hive every day. Johnny Wad bemoans the fact that he may be another of those red and black ants, that upon seeing this film may become the embodiment of fire and rage. Tired of the daily grind and forced into reaction of some sort. As though this film has the possibility to change the very fabric of who you are. To release all that frustration and anger and channel it into a violent 2 minute bout of flying fists and fury.

The thought that this film will ‘incite the revolution and bring down this absurdist air of consumerism and enlighten the air around us enough to see the prison bars that encase our long dormant souls.’ This was the anticipation for FIGHT CLUB, this film which we are not to speak of. This film that will shake the pillars of our own foundations.

Is it really all of that?

Well, let me put it this way....

If.... If you are a part of the generation that has been raised without a father in the home and have gone out into the world a bit angry that you can’t talk to that girl at work for fear of sexual harassment. That fella that has to swallow his pride and shut down his own brain when the boss tells you that you are wrong and you will simply follow orders and... god you wish for just one moment, his jaw was smashing against the knuckles of your hand. If the whole life has been about a series of possessions and paying off of debts accumulated by all the window dressings of a so-called successful life, but when you shut your eyes... when you look into the mirror.... you still don’t believe you are quite the man your father or grandfather was.

Well... then this movie may shake you all the way down to the foundation.

But... to me. I love this film on all sorts of instant levels, and I adore the contradictory elements of making a film condemning consumerism and commercialism by putting in one of the more bankable hunks around, marketing the hell out of it and stuffing it down our throats... well...

One writer, Turk Pipkin, came out of the film saying that this was THE ANIMAL FARM for the GAP generation. I disagree... to me, this is more of Jonathan Swift’s MODEST PROPOSAL for the dissatisfied generation.

Our generation has this strange been there done that sense that, our fathers and fathers fathers have already done everything and lived the peak of civilization, and we are merely existing to retire when we are near seventy. In the meanwhile, we’ll buy this and that. And live the secondary safer life, knowing there was a road we wish we had gone down instead.

This film is about CONTROL. Especially CONTROL for the modern man. The film reaches out for that dissatisfaction with the size of our penises, the control in our lives... We are naturally programmed to be the aggressor, or so we are taught, but at every step of the game the control we used to think our fathers and line of manly men once had has been taken from us.... this film and Tyler Durden tells you to take that back.

This brings me back to the quote atop all these words. It comes after a little monologue about.... “When I graduated High School I asked my father, what do I do now? He told me to goto college, so I went. When I finished college, I called my father and asked him what I was to do next? He told me to get a job, and I did. 4 years later I call him up and ask what now, and he told me to get married. People don’t get married now.” and then the quote comes from the top of the page to here. “We have been being raised by women our whole lives, I really don’t think another woman is the answer.”

The film is filled with this... Characters that one way or another have been made less than manly. Be it through testicular cancer or that pushy boss at work. So much so that we wonder if our very own lives... our own minds are in control of what we do and who we are. Are we in control of ourselves... or are we even losing that?

Well... In Tyler We Trust.

This is going to be a very popular film in the 15 to 40 male crowd. This is that film for all of us. But... at the very same time it’s that deep dark satire that makes fun of the very need to be all of that. A wink and a nudge.... a flip of the acerbic wit.... Watching this film play, and listening to this college crowd react. I could see somewhere in the air floating about sentient and smiling, the very intent of David Fincher smiling. He had us. And he was smiling.

You see, this isn’t an incitful film. I’m no longer afraid of FIGHT CLUB because I have seen it. Yes, it’s disturbing and provocative. Yes, it raises thought and feelings and the option of anarchy. Yes, it’s a film filled with dangerous ideas and notions and God forbid we be allowed that apple from a tree. That we... the commonly created man be allowed to chew that fruit. We should be just left to fields to frolic and fuck.

Strangely enough, this is not a film about killing people or taking lives. It’s not a film about any of those thoughts. This is a film about that sense of inadequacy that lies in many men today... where do we go and how do we get there? And it should make you laugh that you even think about these things.

Yes, it’s bleak and black, but in someways that’s the way many see the world... this film causes us, those folks that wallow in the weird and off-stream and makes us laugh... while striking fear in the hearts of those that have completely accepted their lot in life.

Yes.... Though I once wanted to be a novelist, I am now happy and content in this position as dishwasher. At one point a gun is pulled to a person’s head, and he is asked whether or not he will pursue his forgotten dream or die. The real question is asked of the audience, will you pursue your dreams... or are you dead already?

This is the angle from which I see the film. It clearly talks about guns in the most derogatory manner possible, and you know... a gun is not needed to be a man, let’s drop this happy horseshit and go a few rounds. God, what a wonderful world it would be if them driveby fuckers of the world, would merely duke it out. Enough of this bang bang bullshit. What are we... insane?

If there is one thing that I am sure, we as a people... love it or hate it, will surely be breaking the first rule of FIGHT CLUB.... if you see it, you surely won’t be able to not talk about it.

The film is filled with issues and concerns. In a funny way it’s a mixture of AMERICAN BEAUTY and THE MATRIX by way of SHOCK CORRIDOR and THE WILD ONE.

Fincher has created a movie that quite honestly is breathlessly evocative and compelling. It forces you to have dangerous thoughts, confront them as you would any problem before you and expects you as a reasonable human being to come out with the right answers. At every single possible stage and section of the filmmaking process the movie is exquisite. This isn’t the seemingly random fury and thoughtless violence that people complained about in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. This was thoughtful violence, something that those folks in suits that get elected fret all the more about. However, all these fears and frets.... they are all based upon the assumption of a dim society of self-serving sheep, chewing away at the cud. I don’t believe that is necessarily the case today.

But I ask this one favor if you do come out of this film wanting to blow it all up.... when ya get caught.... Don’t Talk About Fight Club.

Readers Talkback

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  • Feb. 10, 2000, 2:09 p.m. CST

    Fight Club

    by GY Johnny

    Er...haven't you missed the point? It's a COMEDY!! OK, a pretty dark comedy, but comedy none the less. Irony, anyone?

  • March 4, 2000, 7:39 a.m. CST

    Fight club--awsome!

    by MsMorgan

    As you can see, I am not a man by my user Id. Fight club speaks to women as well. Well, this woman anyway. The theme of people working in a boring cubical has been mirrored in Office Space, The Matrix and several other films. The question. Isn't there more to life than work, eat, sleap and doing the right things by societies standards all the time. We all feel this pressure and wish at times we could be more like Tyler Derdon! Free. We are angry we haven't achieved our goals because of society ei. not enough money to finish college, not enough drive to make things happen. Shouldn't we all be stars, arn't we angry to not have what the stars do when we know we could if we only had the opportunity!!! OPPORTUNITY!!!!!!!! Don't we wish we could strip "a big dick" into a major film production! cool! The split personallity of Tyler and the unnamed is a reflection of us all--Totally related--excellent!

  • May 22, 2000, 10:20 p.m. CST

    Fight Club - The Worst Film of All Time!

    by Jake Drida

    I FUCKING HATE THIS FILM!! There is nothing more irritating to witness than preening Hollywood model-hacks like Pitt preaching about the shallowness of our little lives from the safety of their fucking mansions. This film encapsulates the direct marketing and hollow glamourisation of intellectualism which has been gathering pace for the last few years, and which reduces intellect and wisdom to the level of posing in a 3 grand leather jacket and spouting off on how much 'above' consumer culture you are in a pair of fucking Gucci loafers. Fuck you Fincher, Fuck you Pitt, tedious style over substances merchants like yourself are part of the problem, not the solution! As for the inevitable response that the whole film is 'just, like, ironic, maaan' - What?!?!? Let me get this straight - Fincher gets to appeal to gore-hounds with the violence, the woman haters with the blatant misogyny, and the faux-intellectual posers with the meaningless sloganism, and then escape all responsibility for the film's gaping flaws with the old 'irony' escape clause?!?! What planet are you people living on? Let me spell it out for you.... this film isn't offensive because of the violence, it isn't even particularly shocking...what it is is a way too traditional action film ( witness Brad's car park Kung Fu posturing or the so cliched it hurts ending shot ), for people who consider themselves somehow 'outside' of mainstream culture and too good for action movies, delivered by Brad-Fucking-Pitt in retro shades. FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU! This is the worst movie in history! Two points in its defence; 1) It did make me feel violent ( very very violent indeed ) 2) Ed Norton is great in it - just a pity he's squandering his vast talent on a piece of shit like this after the might 'American History X'.

  • May 29, 2000, 5:01 a.m. CST

    ONE OF 99'S TOP SLEEPER PICKS

    by mrwilliam

    I KNOW what many of you are thinking-how the fuck can a Brad Pitt movie be a sleeper? Because it was ignored by audiences and panned by many critics.Which is so fucking typical-many great films get sideswiped by a lot of glossy crap that I won't even bother mentioning.Give FIGHT CLUB a chance if you haven't already done so!!!!!!

  • June 13, 2000, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Mr. Jake

    by MMartin

    I was wondering, if it was your obvious hatred of Brad Pitt that brought you to hate the movie, or is it the hatred of his character? One would seem like Integrity the other would be jealousy. Just a question.

  • June 15, 2000, 10:42 p.m. CST

    Fight Club - does it suck? Really?

    by mburkert

    Y'know, after hearing so much about this film, I was very surprised to see that it didn't live up to all of the hype that my movie viewing friends spit up. I mean, I gave it a six cause Ed was fantasitic, and Brad was not so bad. He was "cool" even....my problem is that when film makers make you spend two hours watching a film, and then use the old, "it was him all along", that is pure bullshit. I mean, Tyler *69's because he never answers the phone. Tyler has this cool job where he splices porn in Disney classics....he pisses in food..., he goes and steals human fat from thrown away liposuction patients...then, whammo!- he doesn't exist. There is no Tyler...wow, brain twister man, fuckin mind fuck...yeah right, that is such bullshit. Watching this for the second time, it is clear that Fincher does not allow the viewer any chance of becoming Tyler and feeling what our "Narrator" really thinks...we must chase Tyler down only to find out that this was a mystery that was impossible to figure out. A riddle with no answer. Anyway, there are some great scenes, and some very funny moments....the acting and camera work was well done, it is just that the story line wasn't very well done (IMHO). I am interested in seeing the DVD with the added footage...maybe something got cut out that may have made things a bit more clear.

  • June 16, 2000, 10:14 p.m. CST

    To MMartin

    by Jake Drida

    I wish it were as simple as a case of mere jealousy regarding Mr Pitt. Let me clarify exactly why it is that he annoys me so much..... I'm pissed off by what I view as Pitt's attempt to 're-brand' himself' as stylish, subversive, and ( to some extent intellectual ). In Fight Club his attempt at counter-cultural posturing is both laughable and offensive, but more importantly it runs the risk of denigrating genuine attempts at subversion to the level of a fashion shoot. How can Pitt be taken seriously as Tyler Durden when it is his lifestyle which seems to epitomise all against which the character 'rages'? How can Pitt effectively observe the shallowness of the media and popular culture whilst simultaneously epitomising it? Of course, maybe that's the point ( I'm sure that Fincher would use this in his own defence ); that Fight Club is an ironic demonstration of how even counter-culture can now be bought shrinkwrapped with a no-brain Hollywood star plastered all over it. In this case I must ask....what's the point? Isn't this just assisting in the very process it seeks to satirise? Thanks for allowing me to clear this up MMartin, but before I go I'd like to lodge my own complaint against your question. Why must it be assumed that if a man is handsome ( which, for my money Pitt is not - and remember you're only guessing that I'm male based on the gender I've ascribed to my ID ) then any criticism of him or his work can be attributed merely to jealousy? And wouldn't it be silly of me to launch into a rant on Pitt's championing of style over substance if I myself was jealous of his body or lifestyle? Can't we talk about something other than style, or is this, as I suspect, the only field in which the 'Brad' phenomena ( not to mention Fight Club ) actually makes any sense or has any merit. Just a thought....

  • June 21, 2000, 3:18 a.m. CST

    Fight Club Frames

    by Lilith_Dax

    I haven't seen this mentioned, so I'll add this for those of you inclined to see FC again. In the beginning of the film, as the doctor tells him to go see the men's cancer support group, if you pause the film, Tyler is standing behind the doctor, to the right. At the men's support group, as the group leader thanks Tom for sharing, once again, pause and you'll see Tyler behind him, to the left. And, of course, at the end of the film, after the buildings blow up, as he is talking to Helena Bonham-Carter, pause again and you will see the "famous" erect penis shot they spoke about earlier in the film. Great job by David Fincher. I thought the movie was great, and the blips made it even better.

  • July 24, 2000, 1:56 a.m. CST

    WOW...what a different movie

    by Jubieloo

    this movie certainly was different...although unlike so many other people i didnt come outta the theatres wanting to hit somthing...people who did missed the message. but its not my job to tell people how to react--i just wanna say that this is a movie that has to be seen twice. I didnt like fight club too much the first time around, there were things that really bothered me--Helena Bonem Carter's character was way underdeveloped, there were holes and inconsistensies, and the script felt weak. but for some reason, the second time around i loved it! this is a really cool, original movie and i say its worth seeing! that is if ur the type that can suspend their disbelief at some of the aspects of the film...plus Brad Pitt was good, and as usual, Norton (the best actor out there) was fantastic. Great sound track and some really cool lines that u'll wanna remember! (by the way, was i like the only one in the world that didnt find the film THAT violent?!)

  • Nov. 2, 2000, 3:13 p.m. CST

    A CLASSIC. AN ENDURING ONE FOR THE AGES

    by jonleeus

    PROBABLY ONE OF MY FAVORITE REVIEWS THAT I'VE READ HERe.not to mention the best DVD I have. compelling,profound,funny,and awe inspiring. thank u to all involved

  • March 2, 2004, 5:22 a.m. CST

    by Tress

    It is now 2004, and I say this is the 2ND best film of all time. This is just me talking though, so don't worry about what I think.

  • March 2, 2004, 5:24 a.m. CST

    (For the above post) Fight Club.

    by Tress

  • Nov. 8, 2005, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Looking back at Fight Club...

    by jrbarker

    Now its 2005. Its funny to look back at this review and the talkbacks. Some of these people that dogged the movie back then probably own the special edition DVD now.

  • March 17, 2010, 9:18 a.m. CST

    Orcus remembers this

    by orcus